Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Well here’s an interesting turn of events: the Toronto Blue Jays finally have a Scott Boras client on their roster.
Unfortunately it’s not the product of a thaw between the club and the super-agent now that Paul Beeston has gone (and taken his petty, Bill Caudill-related grudge with him), but because Aaron Sanchez has now joined Boras Corp’s team, according to a tweet from Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae.
Thing is… is it unfortunate?
Definitely unfortunate is the fact that Boras is still often badly maligned by fans. Players deserve to extract as much money from filthy rich ownership as they possibly can, and that he is capable of helping them do so like few other agents in the game deserves praise, not scorn.
That aside, did Aaron see the shitshows that were José Bautista’s and Edwin Encarnación’s trips through free agency this winter and think, “not me!”? Perhaps. Did he see the hardball the Jays have been playing with free agents this winter, despite the franchise’s blindingly obvious wealth, and think, “not me!”? Also possible. Whatever the case, the move is definitely not unfortunate for the Jays’ young ace.
Aaron is on course to get paid.
And that’s where the question of whether it’s unfortunate for the Jays and their fans comes in.
Naturally the pucker-faced shit-dribblers will be out insisting that this means they’re going to trade him away because they’ll never come close to meeting his price and have already proven that they despise spending money as an ethos — not, y’know, because they didn’t have the resources to do so in Cleveland and haven’t yet wanted to saddle their payroll with more bloated contracts for aging players here in Toronto. Shit, even I snarked — because the low-hanging fruit is so sweet and delicious — that we’d better enjoy the next four years before Sanchez hits free agency after 2020. But actually this hardly means that the writing is now clearly on the wall that the two sides are heading towards a breakup.
It maybe even means the opposite.
First of all, before he reaches free agency Sanchez has to pitch four seasons as a big league starter. If he stays healthy — which is obviously a big if — that’s about 1000 innings. Between the majors and minors he’s only thrown 700 innings since he was drafted back in 2010. He reached 192 innings in 2016, and prior to that his career high was 135.
Free agency, in other words, is a loooooong way off for him. What’s not a long way off, however, are his arbitration years.
Sanchez is set to go through the arbitration process for the first time next winter, and two more times after that before he hits free agency. Given the way his career is going, he could get very expensive for the Blue Jays by 2019 and 2020. He would then stand to make a massive amount of money hitting the free agent market heading into his “age 29” season (which I put into quotes because “baseball age” is determined by the player’s age on July 1st of a given season — Sanchez’s birthday is July 1, so he’ll play half of that first potential free agent year at 28).
Or it could go the other way.
Fans will roll their eyes at the thought of the deals that Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow signed with the Blue Jays in 2010 and 2012 respectively, but they were rightly praised at the time for their benefit to both sides. The deals offered financial security to the players in exchange for cost certainty and a big amount of upside value for the club. Obviously the Jays didn’t reap the kind of value that they’d hoped for with those players, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t still smart pieces of business. (For different reasons, the same could be said for Cleveland’s deal with Boras that brought in Michael Bourn in 2013 — even though he also fell off a fucking cliff.)
The Morrow and Romero deals underline for us that three or four years in the life of a starting pitcher is a really long time. They also remind us that, as afraid as we may be that this is a signal from Sanchez that he’s marching toward a single, giant payday, there are compelling reasons for a young pitcher establishing himself to take a whole lot of guaranteed money early. You need only ask those two pitchers what a great deal it was for them to have done so. And you need only to look at what a stone bargain a guy like Chris Sale is to understand how well a deal like this can work out for a club, too.
Would Aaron, with Boras in tow, be willing to go beyond a deal covering his arbitration years and let the Blue Jays purchase some of his free agent years before the fact? That doesn’t seem to be the case for the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole, another Boras client, but that pitcher’s injury troubles, plus the fact that he’s playing for the cash-strapped Pirates (hold your mewling, Jays fans), maybe doesn’t make him a great parallel. Still, per that Tribune Review piece, it seems to have at least been a question. And it’s not like Sanchez would be the first Boras client to eschew free agency and sign an extension, either. (And it’s not just Strasburg: as Ted Berg of USA Today and being the master of the switch from camera one to camera two pointed out last May, Adrian Beltre re-upped with Texas mid-contract, despite Boras being his rep. There have been others as well.)
So what really is the difference between having Boras as his agent and anybody else? He might poke at the Jays about innings limits, but that issue seemed to have been settled last season by Sanchez himself. And maybe it’s even a good thing to have someone in Aaron’s ear about self-preservation, even if Boras’s ends are to get himself the biggest paycheque possible from whichever team is willing to give the most to his client.
Yeah, he knows how to get his clients money and has a reputation for exclusively handling baseball mercenaries, but his presence alone doesn’t alter economic reality. Sanchez may simply be tooling up for the first of multiple big paydays in his career, and with four years in the potentially volatile life of a young pitcher still in their control, the Jays still have plenty of leverage to make his gain their gain.
Hey, and at this point, what the hell good does wanting a hometown discount do ya anyway?