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Thursday, November 14, 2013
Boras' arguments too transparent

By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- Just because agent Scott Boras says he thinks the Chicago Cubs should spend money -- presumably on his clients -- doesn't mean he's right. Boras, speaking at the general manager meetings in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, was critical of the Cubs for their lack of involvement in the free-agent market since Tom Ricketts bought the team in 2009.

Scott Boras
Scott Boras had some choice words for the Cubs, among other teams, and their lack of spending on player payroll.
Maybe he didn't get the memo that the Cubs are rebuilding, or maybe he doesn't understand that spending $100 million on players long before a team is ready to win isn't the prudent thing to do.

"They've done a great job in the draft and development, and they've got a really good core of young players coming," Boras told reporters. "But it's just not what's expected when you buy a major-market club."

Funny how quick Boras was in praising the plan and then ripping it all in a couple of sentences. He likes the drafting and developing because two of his clients -- Kris Bryant and Albert Almora -- are considered future cornerstones of the team. Just think if the Cubs didn't have any Boras clients as top prospects. Scouting guy Jason McLeod might be in his crosshairs as well.

But for now, Boras wants to take his frustrations out on Cubs ownership. After all, Ricketts & Co. aren't wooing his big-money clients Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. How dare they?

"You're developing the infrastructure, but fans don't come to see seats, grass, cement. They come to see players," Boras said.

The Cubs politely declined to comment on Boras' rant.

But it's nice Boras shows such a caring for the fans of Chicago. If he cared that much about them, he'd lower his asking price for his clients.

But Boras' biggest mistake -- one made by many fans, too -- is wading into the waters of the big-market/small-market conversation. This is a tiresome argument. Too bad baseball doesn't have a salary cap, because in no other sport do we have to hear about big markets versus small markets as much as baseball. Where is it written that a big-market team can't rebuild its organization from scratch? And how does having the ability to generate more money because you're in a big market speed up the rebuilding process? If more money can get Bryant to the big leagues faster, then spend away, but that's not the case.

Many fans will wonder why a team can't spend while it rebuilds. The answer is you can, but you risk getting in the way of your ultimate plan, which, by the way, is to compete year in, year out.

Here's one example of getting in the way of your own plan: Say the Cubs sign Ellsbury for seven years and well more than $100 million -- possibly with a no-trade clause -- then they're locked into him. Maybe you're OK with that because he goes out and has two fantastic seasons, which means when Almora is ready to play, you have to make a decision. But Ellsbury is 33 or 34 by that point, and with that no-trade clause, he doesn't want to go anywhere, or, even if he does, you don't have many, if any, suitors for a player that age. (See Alfonso Soriano and many other aging stars.)

So, instead, the Cubs decide to trade Almora, and maybe they get back some talent. But now Ellsbury predictably starts to decline, and they're right back where they started. And even in those first two great Ellsbury seasons, the Cubs do have a better record, and nearing the trade deadline they wouldn't be that bad off, so the team chooses to make one less trade for a prospect than they would have. But, in fact, the team isn't getting to the playoffs, and now, they've lost out on the ability to acquire more talent and will probably get a lower draft pick. For what? A near-.500 finish? Who cares?

There are many scenarios like this and others in which spending $100 million on a free agent right now will come back to haunt a team in a big way. There might be a few in which it all works out, but the risk isn't worth the reward. There will be a time the Cubs will need to spend and that's when the big-market argument works and can keep a contender going much longer than a team in a small market, but they simply aren't there yet.

Either try and buy a World Series or go the other way. Criticize Ricketts for not doing the former, but don't get on him for choosing the latter, instead of some in-between fix to satisfy Boras and a fan base that has been easily fooled in the past.

Think of it this way: If you liked Boras' comments, does it make you feel good to be on the same side as an agent simply trying to max out his own profits? After all, that's the same complaint fans make about owners.