* Agent Scott Boras wasn't shy when discussing his thoughts on what the Blue Jays should do before Opening Day. His advice? Sign his clients, SS Stephen Drew or DH Kendry Morales. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN -- Scott Boras wants it known he is bullish on the Blue Jays.
“Rogers Communications is the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees combined, this is a $25 billion company,” said Boras in a 90-minute phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
“I never once called Rogers cheap. They are spending. My view of Toronto: It’s a premier city, with premier ownership and a premier franchise. My clients would love to play there. It’s a cosmopolitan city.”
The man who does plenty of business with the Detroit Tigers (result: two World Series appearances in the past three years), who places plenty with the Washington Nationals (their first postseason appearance in 2012), has not had the same, long-term relationship with the Blue Jays.
For the first time since 1992, the Jays dipped their toes into the Boras talent pool by drafting James Paxton of Ladner, B.C. 37th in North America in the 2009 draft. When the Jays would not go over slot with their signing bonus, Paxton returned as a senior to the University of Kentucky.
After a published story quoted Jays president Paul Beeston saying it was difficult to do the deal since Boras would not allow him to meet with the Paxton family, the NCAA ruled Paxton ineligible. The lefty pitched independent ball, Paxton was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and should be in the rotation this season.
“Paul and I are good now,” said Boras. “We sat and talked for two hours at the GMs meetings in November at Orlando. I’ve talked to Alex Anthopoulos maybe 10 times.
“This is like a lunar eclipse, the Blue Jays have a chance to take advantage of the new system.”
Boras says a new system needs a strategic plan: finishing where the Jays did last year they can sign two type-A free agents and not lose either ... and maybe get a draft pick when a free agent leaves. If a team signs a free agent, the draft pick and bonus money is lost.
The Jays have an extra draft pick since they failed to sign the 10th over-all pick in North America, Phil Bickford. If the Jays sign a free agent they won’t lose their first-round pick because they finished in the bottom third of the standings last year. They’ll lose a second round pick instead. Boras calls it a rare opportunity.
“They can sign premium free agents, giving them financial flexibility for down the road and they save on the development side by not losing picks,” said Boras. “They need to take bold steps.”
Boras said that the Jays' team salary is $132.6 million for this year, with commitments of $96.2 million in 2015 and $27.6 million in 2016.
“They’re roughly $140 million this year and the next two years, why not back load contracts? Rogers needs to give its baseball people flexibility. Don’t wait until 2015.”
Boras says there aren’t any productive free agent first basemen or DHs available next year in free agency. The best infielders? Probably Jed Lowrie or Alexei Ramirez.
Boras has two free agents in shortstop Stephen Drew, late of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, and DH Kendrys Morales, who spent last season with the Seattle Mariners.
Why on earth would the Jays want Drew, who turns 31 this month, when they have Jose Reyes?
Boras said Drew would move to second which was quicksand for Jays infielders until Ryan Goins arrived (15 errors by Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis and Munenori Kawasaki and Brett Lawrie). Goins had one clank.
The switch-hitting Morales, 30, would give the Jays an every day DH, “with power from both sides of the plate.”
“The Jays don’t have a second baseman in the system who is a top 10 prospect, and Drew provides insurance if Reyes is injured again. Drew may have better numbers at short than Reyes, but when you trade for Reyes, Reyes plays short.”
And after signing his two free agents, Boras has the next step.
“Trade Adam Lind, he’s on a club friendly contract ($7 million this year with an option for 2015),” said Boras, who suggested a Lind deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a starting pitcher.
“Lind hit .208 against left-handers and .309 vs. right-handers,” said the agent. “Put him with Gaby Sanchez -- .204 against right-hander, .333 against lefties -- and you have a platoon that would help the Pirates.”
The M’s are also looking for a left-handed hitter.
Drew hit .253 with the Red Sox with 13 homers and 67 RBIs in 124 games with a .777 OPS.
“He missed a month due to a concussion,” said Boras, “how many teams have a shortstop that can hit just under .270 (career .264 mark), with 16 homers and 70 RBIs if he played a full season? I’ll tell ... five. [Drew] has the fourth best OPS amongst shortstops.”
Morales hit 23 homers with 80 RBIs in 156 games and a .785 OPS with the Mariners last year.
“I asked Jared Weaver what happened with the Angels last year?” said Boras. “Jared said ‘we lost our leader -- Morales.”
Boras said Morales has turned down a three-year deal and is looking to sign a shorter deal with a larger higher average annual salary.
Previous Boras Jays clients include:
Failed closer Bill Caudill, who was released in the spring of 1986 after the Jays sent Dave Collins and Alfredo Griffin at the 1984 winter meeting.
Robbie Alomar watched Boras win his 1990 salary arbitration and then changed agents.
Steve Karsay, a first round pick of the Jays in 1990, who was dealt to the Oakland A’s for Rickey Henderson in 1992.
Shea Morenz was selected in the sixth round in 1992 but the two sides did not reach an agreement.
Carlos Delgado was represented by Boras in 1992 and chose to change agents while at class-A Dunedin.
Boras refers to the Blue Jays franchise as a “juggernaut.”
“It covers a nation, make these moves and people aren’t asking why hasn’t the team done anything this year?” said Boras. “This could really help, it will sell tickets. They are not going to be in the bottom third next year.”
Boras predicted that the Jays' pitching will be more durable with Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek back to health.
“Why am I talking about the Blue Jays? Because a reporter called me and asked,” said the man Baseball America named the most powerful in the industry in its 25th anniversary issue.
“I study, study, study. I know Toronto is the only major league city where the hockey team is worth more than the ball team, I’m one of the few agents that know there are 10 provinces and three territories in Canada,” Boras said. “The Jays should be one of the top seven or eight teams economically. I know Paul wants to win.
Boras has offered that he’d fly to Toronto to talk contract with Beeston.
“It’s good business for the Rogers network, the key thing is the timing.”
And time, what’s left of it, is about to run out ... 33 days until the Jays open at Tropicana Field.