SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Boras-palooza is the annual get-together between Scott Boras, who typically represents some of the top free agents in a given winter, and reporters at the general managers meetings in which the high-profile agent turns in a one-man show rife with one-liners and messages to teams about spending money.
Especially when it comes to his clients.
The performance in past years has produced oft-repeated gems such as “the gated community of Playoffville” as a likely destination for teams who might sign one of his players; “The fans of Florida have certainly brought the MIA to Miami” to describe the Marlins’ cost-cutting ways and, of course, almost yearly shots at the Mets for not acting enough like a big-market team, most famously saying the club relegated itself to shopping in the “fruits and nuts section” of the free agent supermarket.
The 2019 show did not disappoint.
Not with Boras controlling the top two free agent pitchers – Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg – and the top position player, third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Cole, of course, is No. 1 on the list, an ace pitcher in whom many teams, including the Yankees, have an interest.
“If this were Major League Christmas,” Boras said Wednesday to the usual throng of media surrounding him at this event, “we would be looking at 30 stockings that would clearly want a lump of Cole.”
The prevailing industry expectation is the 29-year-old Cole will surpass $250 million, and perhaps $300 million, in whatever free agent contract he eventually signs. Cole went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA last season with the Astros and finished second to teammate Justin Verlander in AL Cy Young voting.
Though the Yankees have a need for a starter, something GM Brian Cashman called a priority the first two days of these meetings, club insiders say managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, at least at the moment, does not seem inclined to send payroll past $248 million and the third luxury tax threshold. Signing Cole, or Strasburg for that matter, likely would do just that as the Yankees currently have 2020 payroll commitments totaling about $212 million.
“Each franchise has windows of opportunity. I think everybody, when they talk about the Yankees, I think everyone views them as a now team,” said Boras, whose free-agent pitching stable also includes Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. “They view them as a club that is very capable of being really, really successful over a good four-year or so period. And certainly, they’re in a great place to take advantage of that. To the levels they want to take advantage of it, to the probabilities they want, I can say this: I certainly have some ideas that might increase their probabilities.”
Boras, though he tossed in some digs at other clubs, did not do so with the Yankees, though he did take slight issue with end-of-season comments made by Aaron Boone – and backed up by Cashman – with the manager saying the Yankees, beaten in six games by the Astros in the ALCS, were “a play” away from the World Series and not a player away.
“Let’s see,” Boras smiled. “When I watched the Astros series, I kind of watched a player in particular games make them more than one play away.”
In reality, Cole pitched only Game 3 against the Yankees, throwing seven scoreless in a 4-1 victory at the Stadium. Had the Yankees survived Game 6, Cole would have been set to go in Game 7. Still, Boras’ larger point: Cole went 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA this postseason, a difference-maker in every sense.
“The competition for all of the pitchers is very aggressive, probably the most aggressive I’ve seen,” Boras said. “The reality of it is that those No. 1 kind of guys, and those special arms that take you through the playoff seas, you’ve got to have them.”