CARLSBAD, Calif. — Scott Boras gave the hard sell on his marquee client Wednesday and the super agent isn’t buying that the Yankees aren’t interested.
Even though all indications remain they currently are not, according to multiple insiders.
“I remember they put out that same thing about Mark Teixeira in November , and if I were them I’d put that out, too,” Boras said good-naturedly Wednesday on the next-to-last day of the annual GM meetings. “Look, this is a submarine race, this is not a regatta. You do not want other teams knowing that you’re interested in a generational player.”
The Yankees signed Teixeira to an eight-year, $180-million contract before the 2009 season, part of an offseason spending spree in which they committed $423.5 million to three players: Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
The situations are not analogous. The Yankees in the winter of 2008 felt the need to create a splash as they were fresh off missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and were moving into a new ballpark in 2009.
Bryce Harper, along with Manny Machado, are the two big-ticket items in this year’s free-agent class and both at the moment are long shots to land with the Yankees. Harper is the longer shot of the two as the Yankees never have been truly enamored with the six-time All-Star and, just as significant, currently have a logjam of outfielders. Boras is said to be looking for a megadeal perhaps worth as much as $400 million and there are no indications general partner Hal Steinbrenner desires to take on that kind of financial commitment (or, for that matter, the one it will take to land Machado).
“I just think we’re trying to make smart, efficient decisions in our player acquisitions,” GM Brian Cashman said Wednesday, speaking generally and not specifically about Harper. “We are top heavy in payroll and so to add more is more difficult, but the great opportunity in front of us always with our ownership is they’re willing to listen and walk through that process on every opportunity that comes down the pike. We’ll vet it, we’ll see. But we get linked to everything all the time, whether it makes sense, whether the fit is there or not, people still link us regardless.”
And it’s very much in Boras’ interest to have the Yankees linked.
He raised the possibility of Harper playing first base during a radio interview Tuesday and mentioned it again Wednesday, referencing again that Harper was a catcher in high school and became an outfielder in the big leagues.
“He’s, frankly, much more adept instinctively and innately because as a player he played the infield his whole life,” Boras said. “People have asked me, ‘Has he played first base?’ Well, Bryce Harper’s been taking ground balls at first base for a long time and does it often during the season. So he’s an elite athlete, he can fit a lineup in many, many ways.”
Never short on superlatives, Boras called the lefty-swinging Harper a “rocket ship of economic opportunity” that is “just blasting off.”
“Obviously Bryce Harper’s one of those few players that can pay for himself apart from his performance,” Boras said, mentioning the increase in attendance since Harper’s been with the Nationals. “And when you have those kind of players, you understand the economics of this adds value to your franchise and makes you a better team. It’s just a rare, rare opportunity that you have a generational opportunity to sign a player like that.”