Elliott: Boras "Sanchez has chance to be a true No. 1"

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

The sun came up at 7:52 Wednesday morn.

Roads were not torn asunder. Trees were not toppled. And Lake Ontario was not frozen over.  

This was after all the first morning that a key Blue Jays player had super agent Scott Boras as his representation since Robbie Alomar in the spring of 1991.

Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae broke the news Tuesday that right-hander Aaron Sanchez had switched to Boras. It was a coup for Boras to land such a talent as Sanchez coming off a 15-2 season with an ERA of 3.00. He had the lowest ERA in the American League and his winning percentage of .882 was tops too.   

“I still watch the game as a hitter from behind home plate and the main thing I see about this man is that I can’t find the bottom of the baseball,” said Boras from Newport Beach, Calif. 

An infielder Boras played four seasons in the minors, mostly in the St. Louis Cardinals organization peaking at double-A Arkansas.  

“Left-handed hitters hit .215 against him, right-handed hitters .231,” said Boras. “With runners in scoring position he held hitters to a .219 average. No right-hander in the game had those numbers except Jose Fernandez.

“When you get those kind of talents combined with the fact he is a relentless worker. Aaron has a chance to be a true No. 1."

In 30 starts in 2016, Sanchez walked 63 and struck out 161 in 192 innings. Funny thing was in the spring he was supposed to be a reliever. Except he was dominant. Then later he was supposed to be a reliever once he hit a magic inning count before he turned into a pumpkin or Josh Towers. Instead, the Jays gave him a day off here or there and rode the stud hoss home.

Marcus Stroman led the Jays in innings pitched with 204 last season, followed by J.A. Happ with 195 and Sanchez worked 192. Add in the post season and Stroman had 215 1/3, Happ 205 and Sanchez 203 2/3.

That was a huge jump for Sanchez who had pitched 109 1/3 innings (with the Jays in the regular season, post season and in the minors). Some pitching gurus will say a 30-inning jump rather than 94. 

The Jays had good things happen to their starters. Happ, who had pitched more than 166 innings once, jumped over 200 when all in. Estrada had one year of pitching more than 151 innings, pitched 198 1/3 innings counting October. Francisco Liriano replaces R.A. Dickey in the rotation for this season with maybe Joe Biagini being the sixth starter.

Boras who represents Stephen Strasburg was heavily involved in the decision making when the Washington Nationals shut down the right-hander for the season on Sept. 7. And he was spoken with general manager Ross Atkins. 

“The Jays have a chance to be a championship team, so you have to include post-season play into your analysis,” Boras said. “We had the same discussion with the Chicago Cubs a year ago on Jake Arrieta. His innings were tapered this year.”

Super agent Scott Boras with Chicago Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta.

Super agent Scott Boras with Chicago Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta pitched 229 innings in 33 starts in 2015 and 197 1/3 in 2016. In 2015 he allowed four runs in his second and third starts, each less than six innings as he made three starts for a 3.66 ERA going 2-1. As the Cubs won the first World Series in 108 years, he had four starts and a 3.62 ERA going 2-1.      

“There is a lot of documented info about innings management that jumps off the page,” Boras said. “We’ve developed a good exchange. Care and treatment of players is always a factor you have to look at. The Jays have their information and staff. We have our information. 

“Aaron is working hard. His shoulders are bigger than last year.”

Jays president Mark Shapiro and Boras have worked together on managing innings before.

“Kevin Millwood was diagnosed with arm problems and he had a great year. We have a history of doing things,” Boras said. “(Jays) are a cooperative group to work with.”

Millwood won the 2005 American League ERA title with a mark of 2.86 making 30 starts and pitching 192 innings. 

Boras was in a relaxed mood after spending New Year's Eve in Banff, Alta. Before talks with the Jays about Sanchez, the super agent had already formed one opinion about the new Toronto front office.

“Atkins might be a talent,” Boras said recalling meetings with the Jays at both the GMs and winter meetings. “He’s good in a room. We met on a few free agents. Once we had our player (a position player) in the room. Ross did the questioning. He was prepared. He had done his homework.” 

How did the relationship between the Jays and Boras develop? If not hard feelings they were how shall we say ... a nawding relationship. The Jays said nawding to Boras clients and Boras said little to the Jays.  

A few Boras clients who played for the Jays or were drafted but didn’t sign.

_ Bill Caudill, who saved 16 of 23 saves (69.6%) in 1984-85 before losing his job to Tom Henke
  
_ Lefty Jeff Musselman was a key contributor in 1987 going 20-11 with a 4.26    ERA and three saves. He appeared in 94 games making 19 starts and pitching 190 1/3 innings from 1986-89. Right-hander Ron Musselman was with the 1984-85 Jays and was not a Boras client. Often people would ask if the two were brothers. Resident wit Larry Millson used to answer “well Jeff went to Harvard and Ron attended Budweiser U.” 

_ Right-hander Steve Karsay was the Jays first-round pick in 1990 (22nd over-all). Boras had reason to be angry with the Jays who side-stepped him and went to the player’s mother to get approval on the contract. Karsay, 21, was sent to the Oakland A’s, along with Jose Herrera, for Rickey Henderson in 1993. Henderson helped the Jays repeat as World Series champions. One Jays scout almost quit over losing Karsay. 

_ Boras was in the midst of a lengthy losing streak when he went to salary arbitration in 1991 with the Jays over Alomar, acquired from the San Diego Padres. Boras scored a win for Alomar, yet was fired. The second baseman's father, Sandy Alomar wanted to testify that the Padres had kept Alomar in the minors on purpose to avoid the arbitration. Boras saw that it would be classified as biased testimony which would not be allowed. Plus the Padres could have fired Sandy. As a result Sandy had Robbie switch agents.   
 
_ Carlos Delgado was represented by Boras when he played at class-A Dunedin in 1992. Late in the season Delgado had a disagreement with Boras's office over a card show. Delgado then  hired David Sloane.

_ Lefty reliever Scott Schoeneweis signed with the Jays as a free agent in 2005, combining to go 5-6 with a 4.58 ERA in 135 games in 2005-06. He walked 10 and fanned 61 in 94 1/3 innings before being dealt to the Cincinnati Reds. 


_ The Jays drafted LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC) off the Kentucky campus in the first round, 37th over-all, in 2009 although it was known the prospect wanted above slot money. The Jays drafted Paxton, president Paul Beeston refused to budge above the amount the Jays had selected RHP Chad Jenkins in the 20th. This may have been the worst hook up between the two parties. Paxton headed back to school, lost his final year of eligibility because Paxton was accused of having representation and had to pitch indy ball. He's a dues-paying member of the Seattle Mariners rotation.

_ Reliever Franklin Morales, who last year for the Jays, was paid about $2 million for  pitching four innings.

Boras and his staff of scouts, which inlcude Boras, rival some clubs -- especially when it comes to college pitchers. So, besides being the excellent negotiator, he is a first-rate evaluator. Musselman the Harvard grad works for Boras Corporation. 

“For so many years Toronto always had such a good team and was picking so late (26th, 29th) that a lot of our guys were gone in the draft,” Boras said. “So our guys were always getting big contracts elsewhere. 

“And when it came to free agents, it used to be Toronto would never give a three-year contract.”

Sanchez was selected 34th overall in the 2010 draft by scouting director Andrew Tinnish, who grabbed Noah Syndergaard four selections later.

So what now? The sun will come up again. Boras and the Jays will discuss how many innings Sanchez will pitch. Maybe they will discuss a long-term contract. Maybe they will get it done.

For the majority of his clients, Boras likes to take them to free agency to maximize their worth.