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Nightengale: Boras Speaks Winter Meetings Truth, ‘Much Easier to Have the Best Players’

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Prominent sports agent Scott Boras. Photo: Cliff Owen/AP

It’s the most entertaining, amusing, loquacious press conference in all of baseball.

It always occurs the last full day of baseball’s annual winter meetings, usually near the media workroom, delivered always by the same man, and it typically lasts about 30 minutes.

Except in this case, it lasted an exhaustive 56 minutes, 58 seconds, on Wednesday morning.

Scott Boras had plenty to talk about.

He wound up discussing 27 players during his interview session, standing on a platform, surrounded by about 70 reporters, cameras and microphones.

He provided screaming headlines, loquacious soundbites, and notebook stuffings for everyone.

He believes the free-agent marketplace has taken a month longer than usual to develop, but don’t blame him, he says. It’s the Shohei Ohtani pursuit and the Giancarlo Stanton trade that brought the market to a virtual standstill.

There still hasn’t been a marquee free-agent signing, with pitcher Tyler Chatwood signing the biggest contract at $38 million, but Boras says he’s ready, just waiting for the right dance partner.

Boras, who has been notorious taking his time in the free agent marketplace, sometimes waiting until nearly spring training before placing his clients, insists that it’s the clubs who mostly are responsible for the waiting game.

“I hear that perception year after year,’’ Boras says, “but I don’t know what the incentive for me to wait if you have a meeting of the minds to value.

“I think any negotiation normally is 80% of the money given at presentation, and 80% percent of the time in the negotiation is about 20% of the dynamic of finalizing a negotiation.’’

Boras says he has been meeting with teams until 4 in the morning, wondering if he’ll still be in town until Christmas, with no deal for any of his players.

He has been shopping and touting slugger J.D. Martinez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, starter Jake Arrieta and closer Greg Holland, but still expects to leave town Thursday without a deals.

So with no press conference to attend, he provided a few salacious quips, equated the slow free agent market to weather patterns, compared the luxury tax to property tax, and even linked jewelry stores and pawn shops to major league teams.

There was nothing more juicy than his verbal assault on the Miami Marlins, nothing more surprising than his extraordinary praise of a rival agent’s client, Manny Machado, but yet, delivered no substantial information.

“We’ve seen one of our major-league jewelry stores,’’ Boras said, “become a pawn shop.’’

Yes, he’s talking about you, Marlins owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.

“I think it’s the filtering of who we choose to sell teams to,’’ Boras said. “You have a community down there that grew to know four or five star players. They have a tremendous outfield there. They have a new ballpark. They have an excitement they grew to know. They suffered a tremendous tragedy, and loss with Jose (Fernandez). And it was really wonderful to see the reaction after the loss of Jose the connection the community had with that team.

“You would hope that MLB would screen the ownership so that we have an ownership that comes in and provides addition. They come in and they re-direct, so you’re not a jewelry store that’s coveting your diamonds.

“You now become a pawn shop that is trying to pay the rest of building.’’

And that was just minutes before he received a phone call from the Marlins telling him that they just traded his star outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals for prized pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara and three other prospects.

“I think major-league markets are damaged by that,’’ Boras said. “I think it’s disappointing for players who grew up with one another. You always hear people talk about development and growing up in an organization. That process was exhibited and functioning at a high level in Miami, and it was basically re-directed due to debt service, paying off the purchase price for the ownership.’’

In the meantime, well, it was Boras being Boras.

You want the greatest slugger since Babe Ruth? J.D. Martinez is your man.

You want a guy who’s a big-game pitcher and not someone who’ll melt down during the World Series? Meet Jake Arrieta.

Did you want the greatest clubhouse influence since David Ortiz? Say hello to Eric Hosmer.

You believe Matt Harvey is broken down and will never again be a marquee pitcher? Just wait and watch him prove everyone wrong.

He never talked about the money or years he was seeking in any deal for his clients, but, of course, noting that any team would be stupid not to desire them.

Why, even though the New York Yankees (“When there’s diamonds to be had, they’re in the diamond business’’), just traded for Giancarlo Stanton to pair up with Aaron Judge, he thought the Yankees would be shrewd to add Bryce Harper a year from now to have “a wonderful Bronx opera,’’ even though it would mean sending his own client, Jacoby Ellsbury, to the bench.

It would appear to put Boras in a delicate, almost conflicting situation, just as it may be with star players such as Martinez and Hosmer each being fits for the Boston Red Sox, but Boras insists it’s actually an advantage.

“It’s much easier to have the players, the best players,’’ Boras says, “because you know everything. You know what every team is doing and why. And you can really define to the player the preference.

“You can communicate that with the players, and they can get an early diagnostic what’s going on in the market.’’

Boras got off the stage, strolled through the crowd, stopped for fans who wanted selfies, and was off for radio and TV interviews.

The show was over, but the drama of where his biggest stars are going, with a market much quieter than anyone envisioned, is just getting started.

By Bob Nightengale

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook

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