It’s hardly anything we haven’t heard before, and wholly self-serving coming from an agent — especially one with clients (Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales) still adrift in free agency and weighed down by anchor-shaped draft picks — but Scott Boras made some interesting comments last night to Ken Rosenthal for a piece at Fox Sports, skewering Rogers like he was a fan… or… I dunno… had some kind of financial stake of his own in their spending…
“There is no one who has the asset base of Rogers,” Boras told FOX Sports on Sunday, referring to Rogers Communications, the Jays’ parent company.
“It’s a premium city. It’s a premium owner with equity. And it’s a very, very good team that with additional premium talent could become a contending team.”
Boras added, “They’re a car with a huge engine that is impeded by a big corporate stop sign . . . a successful and committed ownership that needs to give their baseball people financial flexibility.”
Part of me really wants to believe that this is simply another salvo in an ongoing war between Boras and Paul Beeston, which has been going on since as far back as the Bill Caudill fiasco, and the agent is just trying to make life difficult for his adversary. However, I think Jeff Blair is probably hitting closer to the truth when he tweets, “If I told my client to turn down a $14 million qualifying offer like Boras did, I’d be looking for someone to blame, too.”
After all, there are whispers out there that the Jays may have been concerned about the medicals on Jimenez, Santana, and Brett Anderson, and if they’re wary of feeding the “this team doesn’t comprehend injury risk” beast, maybe there’s more legitimacy to their passing on those guys that we’d like to accept, and reason to believe they’d have similar worries about Drew. It must also be remembered that Boras is talking about a company, Rogers, who increased this club’s payroll by over $35-million from 2012 to 2013, and $50-million from 2012 to right now.
On the other hand, those figures are a little more complicated than they seem on the surface.
Here’s how I explained it all back in October:
After years of using a small payroll as an instrument to extract extra revenue sharing dollars, while using the team as little more than a source of cheap content for their regional sports networks, Rogers appeared to have seen the light sometime in late 2012. It is surely not a coincidence that their epiphany came around the same time that league’s new collective bargaining agreement with the players phased out the old version of revenue sharing, making clubs in the 15 largest markets– including the Jays– ineligible for it by 2016, with the low-spending among those– again, including the Jays– becoming the “most motivated to increase their revenue streams over the next few years,” according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com at the time of labour deal’s announcement in November 2011. But that hasn’t stopped much of the chatter surrounding the club’s winter task from largely absolving ownership, who we’re to believe so benevolently increased spending last year, from demands that they continue to put revenues from a club, and a sport, flush with cash (especially with new national TV deals beginning in 2014, which will give each team an additional $26-million per season) back into it.
. . .
[We] should be talking more about why [more spending is] possible– i.e. because of the change in the revenue sharing system, because of national TV deals, because of the ever-increasing value of the content they provide Sportsnet, because of the highest-in-MLB growth they saw in terms of attendance this season, and because the new CBA saves them money in other ways, like the fact that MLBTR indicates that in 2010 and 2011, the club spent $22.6-million on the draft, while Baseball America indicates that for 2012 and 2013, the figure was just $12.3-million.
There have been little-noticed savings on international free agents, as well: in December of 2011 (the first time I used the image above) I figured that, though the numbers were murky, in 2010 and 2011 the Jays had spent about $20-million on international amateur players (including $10-million for Adeiny Hechavarria, plus bonuses for Roberto Osuna, Dawel Lugo, Wulimer Becerra, etc.). Because of the new CBA, in the signing period that began in July of 2012 their pool allotment limited them to spending just $2.9-million (though they could go over that by 10% before incurring a penalty that would prevent them from signing anyone above $500K in the following period), and this year their figure dropped to $2.82-million.
So there are instruments in the CBA to compel the Jays to spend more in general, and to move money from other, darker areas to the big league payroll — which is, of course, the number that will always be zeroed in on. As much as that sort of spending made Rogers’ commitments worthy of defence in 2010 and 2011, when they were pouring money into unseen areas while fans whined about big league payroll alone, it means we can’t now give them a break simply because the money has been moved around. They’ve spent more, just not quite as much more as it looks. It also so happens that their current commitments, large as they are relative to the league, are slated to go down by more than $100-million in about 18 months’ time, at the end of the 2015 season.
As much as we have to look at everything about how this club spends money through the prism of how much capital Rogers is willing to give the front office access to, it’s an absolute joke that the parent company can attempt to cry poor, or construct a series of hoops that the front office must jump through in order to get their hands on the kinds of resources we understand full well that the club generates.
Ervin Santana, the Rosenthal piece says, is posturing now like he’d rather wait until July to sign, when the draft has passed and he’s free of the compensation tied around his neck, “than accept a deal similar to the one-year, $8 million contract outfielder Nelson Cruz agreed to with the Orioles, pending a physical.” The Jays should be willing to pay him more than that — and they should be willing, even, to overpay him without the fear that even a wholly reasonable deal may haunt them down the road, should Rogers choose to suddenly turn off the revenue tap.
While it’s naive to expect ownership to behave against their own interests, we surely can expect better than the warped misrepresentation of the club’s financial picture that it seems hoped we’ll simply swallow uncritically, especially when such slimy pronouncements come from the unassailable mouth of Paul Beeston. To blame Anthopouos, then, even as he dutifully praises ownership and tries to insist that the buck stops with him, would be folly.
In other words, Boras is right. We knew that already, and clearly he’s saying as much entirely out of self-interest, but he’s right.