How Boras and his class of free agents will help shape Blue Jays off-season

Toronto Blue Jays' Marcus Semien runs the bases after hitting a solo home run off Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Dean Kremer during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Baltimore. (Julio Cortez/AP)

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Cut through all the theatrics, dad-joke one-liners and power-flex bluster of the Scott Boras experience and there’s always some worthwhile insight in what the influential super-agent has to say.

His lengthy dissertation on how the implementation of draft bonus signing pools led to a tanking epidemic in baseball was simultaneously soundly reasoned and relevant, and blatant agenda grandstanding. The same applies to other criticisms of an increasingly problematic baseball framework.

Some of his arguments are precisely why the sport is all but assuredly heading toward a lockout once the collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of Dec. 1, and may very well be addressed in the next labour deal.

That uncertainty is why no major free-agent signings are expected until after a new CBA is in place, fuelling the possibility of an NHL-style signing frenzy once business reopens. With a billion-dollar class of available players in his stable, Boras is uniquely positioned to control the market, which is why the Toronto Blue Jays’ off-season in part runs through him.

“Talent is the steak and I really don’t care what time dinner is,” Boras replied when asked about the potential of a chaotic spring-signing window. “It doesn’t matter because teams know that without it, they’re going to win or lose. Whatever period of time they think, the fact of the matter is they need it. And it makes monstrous differences in the outcomes of their clubs.”

Clients of primary relevance to the Blue Jays include Marcus Semien, who last month switched his representation to Boras Corp., Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager and New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, all of whom fit the club’s goals of a high-impact position-player add, should that be the route GM Ross Atkins opts for.

At the same time, the Blue Jays are also exploring a spread-the-wealth approach. Atkins keeps repeating some variation of “there are a lot of different ways to make our team better and we’re open to the different avenues,” because, at least right now, he and the front office are still sussing out what’s real and what makes the most sense.

The pitching holes left by the free agencies of Robbie Ray and Steven Matz are obvious, but so too is the need for an infielder to cover Semien’s lost production, or a third-base upgrade. They won’t be adding two top-flight players to fill in around Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette, but when asked if they ideally find someone that replicates Semien’s impact, Atkins replied, “we would like to.”

“I’m really excited about Cavan Biggio next year, I feel like with the injuries he had this year that, just extremely optimistic that we’re going to see a very good player in Cavan moving forward, not just next year,” Atkins continued. “Obviously, the progress of Bo and Vladdy puts us in a really strong spot, so adding another infielder either in a significant way or just to complement some of the other young infielders that we have would be a good outcome. Don’t feel like we absolutely have to, but we would like to add an infielder to that mix.”

To that end, the Blue Jays are telling the infielders they speak with that Bichette is their shortstop, and essentially asking if they see possibilities at other positions. That’s how they approached Semien a year ago and that would be the pitch to Seager, who’s already being linked to the suddenly flush Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, and may not have interest in switching spots.

“I think teams view Corey Seager as a big-play shortstop in big games,” said Boras.

Bringing back Semien is seamless and sensible on a number of levels, but the lure of being closer to home on the West Coast is sure to be a factor for him. Boras wouldn’t tip his hand when asked whether the Blue Jays had engaged him on both his star infielders, replying that, “obviously (they) are trying to get better.”

“They had an amazing year last year with the performances of Marcus and Robbie Ray,” he added. “And obviously those players are both free agents so they’ve got a lot of work to do to get their team back to that level, if not better.”

That’s a pretty measured response, especially considering that it was during the 2018 GM meetings at the very same Omni La Costa Resort and Spa hosting this year’s gabfest that Boras chastised the Blue Jays for having “a ‘Blue Flu’ of not bringing attractive players that their fans find interesting to their market.”

The signing of Hyun Jin Ryu to an $80-million, four-year deal two years ago ended the freeze between the sides, as did the signing of since-traded 2020 first-rounder Austin Martin. The lack of zingers Wednesday shows that the Boras expects the Blue Jays to keep factoring into his business.

Whether that’s one of Semien or Seager or Conforto — allowing the Blue Jays to perhaps pair some of their outfield and catching surplus to acquire a starter from one of several sellers — or perhaps lefty Carlos Rodon, or no one at all, is to be determined.

But for the time being, the overarching question before the Blue Jays when it comes to adding to their offence is “whether or not it’s more complementary or a free agent or trade of some significant impact,” said Atkins.

“We’re also in a position where we have to consider if there are ways that other teams are valuing certain areas of our club that could help us round out the team in a different way that we have to be open to,” he added. “That’s why these meetings are so helpful and so important in expediting a lot of that information for us.”

The expectation is that three weeks from now, the industry will hit pause for its latest labour dust-up and all that intel will collect dust as the framework of the sport gets tweaked, adjusted or more holistically reworked.

When all is said and done, Boras will be there, steaks at the ready, waiting to take teams’ orders.

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