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Photo Credit: Frinkiac.com

Unspinning the Aaron Sanchez Contract Situation

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.

That’s it.

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.

  • JoannaC

    I agree with all of it. Especially “It’s OK to get out of your own damn way sometimes”. Also, one of the reasons these things is headache inducing is because all the actors (the Jays and Boras, in this case) feed into the bellyaching of a certain subsection of the fan base.

  • Barry

    Well, okay, sure, that all sounds like an even-tempered evaluation of the situation, but speaking as someone who a) knows nothing about this sort of contract situation, and b) is looking for reasons to get irrationally upset about anything I can, the article, disappointingly, does not clarify who I should be angry at. And so it is, with regret, that I must move on to an “In the Night Garden” forum to complain about the amount of airtime devoted to the Tumliboos.

    • Barry

      It’s a shame I didn’t get a chance to get angry about the “holy shit Jays games are going to be blacked out” thing before the “wait, no they’re not” moment. Twitter moves fast.

  • A Guy

    I guess the issue is the Jays have a “policy” that they apply evenly to each player. I understand that’s important, I have employees and you need consistency as people can be thin-skinned when they hear they may get less than someone else. Having said that, there are ways to make it up to them, and I would think a smart employer would take him aside, wink, and say “don’t worry son, we’ll look after you”.

  • Mule or etc...

    Isn’t this a bit short-sighted on Boras’ part? Sure, maybe it gets Sanchez an extra 50k next year – but human nature being what it is – in the future are Shapiro and Atkins going to be eager to deal with a guy who calls them out as being cheap in the press?

    • Rance's Dad Glasses

      If they are thin skinned wieners who can’t handle it, no they won’t.
      If they want Sanchez long term at a price that works for both, yes they will.

      • Mule or etc...

        It’s not about being thin skinned. It’s about doing business with someone who openly trashes your business practices in the press and who could possibly cause real PR damage.

        In the future if the Jays are looking at two similar free agent outfielders and an one is repped by Boras and the other by another agency aren’t they going to go with the other guy to avoid this sort of nonsense in the press?

        There are already front offices that won’t sign any Boras clients.

      • lukewarmwater

        Obviously Boras has a well deserved reputation in being a hard nose negotiator who specialises in its my way or the highway. Now just suppose Sanchez does develop into a Cy Young award winner. Obviously Boras will demand the moon and guess what Rogers has first rights. But the obviously question will as usual be whether or not Rogers will step up to the plate and be willing to shell out the big dollars. After all Rogers in their mentality still views the 4th largest market in North America as being a small middle size market. Sadly a lot of the media and Jay fans swallow that line, along with the hook, sinker and a Marvelous Mitch Marner Minnow Flounder.

  • Rance's Dad Glasses

    Um, can the season just start already please? I just want meaningful baseball again.
    And a Cy young for sanchez. (Runner up a tie – Happster and Stroman).
    And Jerry Howarth on my radio all summer long.
    Much more important things than Boras.

  • BOJACK Vince Horseman

    There is nothing to unspin here. He’s under contract. Pre Arb. He takes what they give him and shuts up. This is what his union collectively bargained with the owners.

    OR

    He can try and negotiate for more cash and the jays should reply with, OK, but if you do worse than expected, can we negotiate your salary down the year after?

  • fred2

    Just pay players what they’re effing worth from day one. Soccer manages it. Abolish the draft while you’re at it and pay draftees what they’re worth. That the baseball players association has accepted a situation where, say, a Sanchez or a Donaldson gets injured before unrestricted free-agency and misses out on millions of dollars that their play justifies (and yes I know Donaldson gets paid sort of semi-ok through arbitration, but still massively less than he’s worth), wouldn’t be allowed in any other industry. Players are still chattels of clubs for half their careers. It makes no sense.

    It would probably also lead to a lot of marginal players at least getting one decent payday when they are first signed, or though their first few seasons. The elite players in the late 30s would probably get paid less, because more of the cash available would go to young players. But what is the sense of, say, Mike Trout, getting a cash bonanza at 35 when his best years are probably already behind him? What’s the sense of his best years spent playing cheaply in the wilderness for a team that’s not contending, when he might have been the star he deserves to be, and winning World Series? Would Derek Jeter be half the star he was if he hadn’t lucked into playing his early, highest quality years for the Yankees rather than Tampa Bay? What if Giancarlo Stanton’s career is wasted earning a quarter of what he’s worth in Miami and gets injured in his free agent year?