Scott Boras, Brodie Van Wagenen and positive publicity

The average fan has a warped view of Scott Boras. They see him as arrogant, even by Sith Lord standards, and somehow think if he wasn’t around that ticket prices would go back to 1970 levels. It doesn’t help that he looks like the relative with obnoxious political views who always corners you at family gatherings. But if Boras disappeared, he’d be replaced by some Ken doll who was smooth around the edges and therefore wouldn’t enrage the public but who did the same things and got the same results. You know, like Brodie Van Wagenen.

Boras and the Mets have had a rocky relationship lately, at least since the Bernie Madoff fiasco and potentially earlier than that. Who was the last Boras client the Mets signed or acquired in trade from another organization? The first one that comes immediately to mind is Carlos Beltran. There are likely others. But if it is indeed Beltran, that was prior to the 2005 season. Wait, it seems Oliver Perez was a Boras client, too. It’s difficult to tell when Perez hired Boras. But let’s say he was his agent when he was with the Pirates. New York got him from Pittsburgh in 2006. Doesn’t change the equation very much.

Post Madoff, Boras has complained loudly that the Mets are shopping in the discount stores. Certainly he’d like the Mets making offers on his clients. Even if they didn’t sign them, just the threat of a New York team being in the hunt would drive up the price. And no one, not even Boras’ biggest critics/haters, would deny that the Mets have been mostly frugal in the free agent sphere the past 10 years or so.

When the Mets selected Van Wagenen to be their new GM, Boras led the charge that it was a conflict of interest for a former agent to become a part of management. He also disclosed that he never even had a conversation with Van Wagenen previously. In pure theory, few would argue with Boras’ position. But because of who he is and how he delivered his criticisms, the public mostly just shrugged them off. And during the Winter Meetings, the two men did indeed have a sit down.

Of course, the media asked Van Wagenen to divulge what was said in that meeting and the new GM was vague in his response, mentioning the specific case of Michael Conforto, the only Boras client on the Mets currently, and not much else.

It’s no shock that they had a meeting; they pretty much had to have one. And maybe they exchanged pleasantries and talked about Conforto and that was that. But it seems likely to me that the names of two Boras free agent clients – Zack Britton and Bryce Harper – were brought up that day. It was no secret that the Mets were going to go after relief pitchers in the offseason, which made Britton a natural for his agent to discuss with the club’s GM. And how could he not bring up the name of either the top or second-best free agent available?

Britton’s off the market now, as he’s re-signed with the Yankees. And news has come down recently that the Yanks have publicly entered the Manny Machado sweepstakes, offering the other top free agent a lengthy deal. Of course, the Yankees met with Machado earlier in the offseason but did not seem to be among the leaders to wind up with Machado. And that was before signing Troy Tulowitzki.

The Phillies have always seemed like a destination for either Harper or Machado or both. They had both the payroll room and a willingness to spend the money it would take. Yet neither free agent seemed to be eager to play in Philadelphia, for whatever reason. If Machado goes to the Yankees, does that make it more likely that Harper goes to the Phillies? Will Philadelphia up its offer once the other prime free agent target is no longer available?

That’s certainly possible and perhaps what Boras is counting on here in February.

Or maybe there’s another angle Boras is hoping will develop. There’s a school of thought that the Wilpons are interested in the old Steinbrenner ploy of owning the back page. It’s been a pretty good offseason for the Mets in that regard. They chose the “wacky” GM, he traded for ex-Yankee star Robinson Cano and has made a host of other interesting acquisitions. And that’s to say nothing of all of the virtual ink spilled on rumors surrounding Corey Kluber, J.T. Realmuto and Noah Syndergaard.

But what if on the eve of Spring Training, the 100-win Yankees add one of the prize free agents by bringing in Machado? Suddenly Keon Broxton and Justin Wilson don’t seem that important. If the Wilpons really want the good publicity to continue, will that mean a change of direction and an embrace of Harper?

Back in January, Van Wagenen said that the outfield was not a top priority. Later in the month, Jeff Wilpon stated that they weren’t interested in Harper because it would mean the Mets would carry two $30 million players. Supposedly, the vision that Van Wagenen sold ownership on was using payroll to address multiple needs, rather than one specific need.

And the Mets have done that, bringing in multiple relievers, a starting catcher and new players for second and third base. But still there’s the perception that the club only has two starting outfielders. And while Harper doesn’t play center – or at least play it very well – it would be a feather in Van Wagenen’s cap and a triumphant end to his first offseason if he were to convince the Wilpons to open up their checkbook for the Boras client.

David Wright has already agreed to a restructured contract and perhaps insurance is still kicking in some money on that, too. The Mets will also collect some unknown amount of insurance on Yoenis Cespedes this year, as well. And internal reports on Cespedes might be the ultimate deciding factor on going after Harper.

When news came out last year about Cespedes requiring surgery on both heels, then Assistant GM John Ricco gave an 8-10 month window for a recovery time, adding, “it’s possible it could be longer than that; it probably won’t be shorter than that.” Since then what little news that’s come out has been positive. But rarely do you hear about setbacks or anything of that nature early in the recovery process.

It’s possible that Cespedes is on track and will rejoin the team this year.

But it’s also possible that internal forecasts have him missing the entire year. And if the Yankees sign Machado and the DH is coming to the National League in 2020, maybe that’s the perfect storm for Harper joining the Mets after all. The Yankees signing a big free agent is expected. The Mets signing one – and a Boras client at that – would be a shock. And we know that shock carries the day on the back pages.

Just try to imagine the press conference, with Boras and Van Wagenen flanking Harper. The agent and the GM would both be glowing over how the Mets are doing everything to return to the top of the NL. And Harper could get in on the act, too. He could say how New York was always his preferred destination and how glad he is not to be in Philadelphia or Washington. The press would eat it up and the positive publicity would be off the charts.

Of course, it would require the Mets to exceed the Luxury Tax threshold, which probably means it has no chance of happening. But until Harper signs with another team, it’s tantalizing to envision him in the middle of the Mets’ lineup.

17 comments for “Scott Boras, Brodie Van Wagenen and positive publicity

  1. Mike Walczak
    February 10, 2019 at 5:46 am

    What would you pay a player who has a 162 game average of 32 home runs and 91 RBIs with a .279 average?

    Would you sign him to an eight to ten year contract at $ 25 to $ 30 million per year?.

    That could be one of the big reasons that Harper isnt sitting on a stack of high offers.

    However, I would be interested in signing Harper to a JD Martinez type deal.

  2. TexasGusCC
    February 10, 2019 at 8:38 am

    As I recall, the beginnings of the Boras/Mets friction started with Carlos Beltran’s knee surgery going into his walk year. The Mets’ doctors told Beltran that he was fine and didn’t need surgery. Beltran went for a second opinion that told him surgery was needed. I remember Boras being pissed that the Mets were sabotaging his meal ticket. That’s the first time we heard about a feud. Of course, afterwards was the “Mets shop in the fruits and nuts aisle while everyone else shops in the meat department” comment, and things really boiled over when he wanted Harvey shut down in late 2015.

    • February 10, 2019 at 10:52 am

      Didn’t it start with the whole Arod thing?

  3. Pete from NJ
    February 10, 2019 at 9:08 am

    In a way if Harper signs with a team outside the NL East, it’s an actual win for the Mets. No having Harper in the lineup in the division rival (and of course the fans seeing him 18 times yearly)is even better than signing him for $330 million.

    For Gus: Boras advocating for Beltran/Harvey makes him not only morally but perhaps legally correct. We can even argue for Beltran it was a no brainer and for Harvey, we can only speculate.

  4. Metsvibes
    February 10, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Its the money, Harper is not worth 30 +. I feel its better to have 4 new goodyear tires for your car , than one Michelin and three spares.

    • February 10, 2019 at 10:54 am

      Dude is def worth thirty mil he’s 26 and is an elite hitter and had a historically great year at age 22 showing you his ceiling.

      • Bob P
        February 10, 2019 at 7:56 pm

        Top 10 in bWAR once in his career. That’s not elite to me.

  5. TJ
    February 10, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Brian,
    Your points on Boras are fair, and kind of reflect reality in all walks of life. It is not only the message that is being delivered, but it is how the message is delivered. Often times, the delivery is more important than the content – just look at the political process in our beloved country.

    So, this is a classic labor vs management battle, dating back to the beginnings of civilization. The truth is, Boras irks me, but mostly because he comes off as very arrogant. Most of his points are accurate, but his ego clearly is Brooklyn-sized. If I was a player, I would strongly consider him as a rep, but wold likely go with more of a Brodie-type as Boras has clearly made some enemies in the game.

    At the end of the day, union or not, ownership is in control and has only themselves to blame. Being a worker myself, I side with labor most times, and have a hard time relating to people like the Wilpons, especially the 2nd and 3rd generations, who are recipients of “familial welfare”, i.e. free handouts of wealth through no actions of their own except bloodlines.

    Boras is right to set the bar high, that is his job. I most certainly would not guarantee any athlete monies beyond 5 years, and I would only consider that length for the cream of the cream. But, teams have set precedents, and the world functions based on precedents. While all the focus is on how much Harper and Machado will get, the real concern is how much the mid to lower level players get, how much the minor leaguers get (this is disgusting), and how to adjust the system so shift more earnings to the younger players that tend to produce more, now that analytics and probably less performance enhancers have clearly impacted the willingness to guarantee big money to older players.

    I hope Boras and others will advocate for those issues, and not just the issues that directly relate to their own payola.

    • Bugsy
      February 10, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Thank you for a very thoughtful and interesting post.

    • Name
      February 10, 2019 at 3:46 pm

      Excellent comment on labor discussions. Hope others are reading this.

  6. Zozo
    February 10, 2019 at 11:21 am

    How would they be over the luxury tax? Aren’t they in the $150 million zone?

    • February 10, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      Whatever monies the club collects from insurance do not get taken off from the calculation for the luxury tax. And it’s unclear how money received in a deal – like the Mets got $20 million to defray the cost of Cano – gets accounted for here.

      The tax threshold went up to $206 million this year, up more than any year since 2007. So, it’s not a given that they would be subject to the tax

  7. Chris F
    February 10, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Boras is a detestable human being. His primary driving focus is greed. For him the competition is not in the W L column, but setting ridiculous greed-driven payouts. He could not care less about baseball, its just a vehicle to stuff his wallet. Gimme. Mo. Money. Its the only thing he knows or cares about; I find that attitude repulsive. Im glad the Mets are done with it.

    As far as Harper goes. Everyone gets it. Kid can play this game. But am I alone in having some wondering about the future. He put up 20 bWAR in his first 4 seasons, and “only” 7.3 in the past three seasons. I mean 2.5 WAR per year is fine, but for 30M$?

    • Bob P
      February 10, 2019 at 12:32 pm

      +1

    • TexasGusCC
      February 11, 2019 at 6:50 am

      +2

  8. BVac
    February 10, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    I certainly think this is the type of deal ownership makes not the GM. We have already seen the Wilpons get their hands too involved in player acquisition, but for any team a sign as big as this one only comes when ownership is convinced they need to add this player. If that were so we’d be hearing actual Mets Harper connections. While I’d love to see the former MVP in orange and blue it just doesn’t seem this dream will come true

  9. Eraff
    February 10, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    All noise aside, the best thing the Mets can do is be right about their own moves and run at 1st place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: