The forced marriage between the Blue Jays’ front office and Aaron Sanchez’s new agent, Scott Boras, truly has the potential to create some hilarious confusion among Jays fans not terribly interested in thinking before they speak or the finer points of how the game operates. WHO ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO HATE IN THIS???
Today, after news broke that Aaron Sanchez will only be making the league minimum in 2017, despite an All-Star, four win season in which he led the American League in ERA and accepted a two week demotion (and the attendant loss of big league salary), it seems though Boras is coming away the winner. HOW DARE CHEAP FUCK ROGERS NICKEL AND DIME ONE OF THEIR BEST PLAYERS??!?!?
I’m of the view that players should be paid as much as can possibly be extracted from their clubs’ billionaire owners, and that the players are the game, so I’m much more OK with a guy like Boras than the average fan, I think, and have no trouble with him looking like the winner today — even, if, y’know, his client taking less money than was offered doesn’t quite make him one. But, of course, there’s more going on with this situation than meets the eye.
Boras himself laid out rather clearly, if unintentionally, exactly what’s going on, in comments reported by Shi Davidi at Sportsnet. In them, the the super-agent “ripped” the Jays for their rigid policies regarding pre-arb players.
“They offered him a very small raise above the minimum, which is not commensurate to his performance peers. Some teams have very low payment standards but they say if you renew we understand, but you still keep the money we’re giving you. Toronto is so rigid, they not only have a very antiquated or substandard policy compared to the other teams for extraordinary performance, but if you don’t accept what that low standard is, they then have the poison pill of saying, you get paid the minimum. It’s the harshest treatment in baseball that any club could provide for a player. That’s why few teams have such a policy.”
Davidi then explains: “Each team has its own formula for calculating salaries for players before they become eligible for arbitration, and the Blue Jays’ system is believed to be primarily based on a player’s service time. Clubs can dictate the salary if a player refuses to accept an offer, something he might do as a way to protest a raise he feels is inadequate.”
In other words: The Jays offered Sanchez a salary above the league minimum, but not as high as Sanchez and Boras wanted. Boras wanted to negotiate. The Jays, as is entirely their right, told him that there would be no negotiation, and if their offer was refused, as per a long-standing club policy (which possibly only still exists because the club hasn’t had to deal with Boras for years) they would set his salary at the league minimum. Boras (and Sanchez) refused the offer, ostensibly as a protest, but also precisely because it would give him something to hammer the club with in the rush of media appearances that would be sure to follow.
Boras understands here that he has no leverage here except in whatever small amount he can use public perception to sway the front office’s decision-making. It’s not a bad strategy, because in an industry based around ticket sales, merchandise, and TV ratings, taking a hammer to the brand — especially this brand, in this market, in 2017, after two years of massive success on TV and at the gate, on the issue of ownership cheapness — can have an impact.
But that’s all this is. Boras is hoping to create a perception problem for the front office that will pay off for him and his clients down the line — either by forcing the club to rethink the value of its policies, or at the very least making them uncomfortable with going through a Boras-created mess like this again with Sanchez next year.
The other stuff that you’ll hear — the sky-is-falling stuff about what this means about Sanchez’s future in Toronto — is, frankly, a bunch of bullshit. If, before he reaches free agency, the Blue Jays end up offering Sanchez a long-term contract extension that better serves his personal and financial interests than not signing it, he’ll sign. If he thinks it doesn’t, he won’t. And if he gets to free agency and the Blue Jays are the team to offer him the biggest contract, he’ll stay. If they don’t, he won’t.
That all said: jeezus, Jays, just pay him a little extra, for fuck sakes. It’s OK to get out of your own damn way sometimes, guys.