No one loves a crowd more than Scott Boras, and he got yet another opportunity to regale the assembled media with his pun-laden commentary at the GM Meetings on Wednesday. In addition to advocating for splitting the draft date out from All-Star weekend (agree) and a neutral-site World Series (hardest of disagrees), the super-agent was stumping for his clients. The Cubs are expected to have interest in several of those players, namely Cody Bellinger.
“I think Chicago got the comforts of a full Belli,” Boras quipped, “so they’re gonna have to loosen their belts to keep Bellinger…”
“Our position on the [chances for any specific team] is that Cody’s told me to look at the full gamut of the Major Leagues. Listen to everybody, and he’ll make his decision from there.”
While Boras is not about to give up even the tiniest bit of leverage in these public conversations, it doesn’t seem as though the Cubs really have any sort of advantage here. That tracks with what we heard from Jed Hoyer at the end of the season, especially if the bidding for Bellinger is driven beyond the $150 million range. As noted here in the past, there are some concerns about how well his offensive production will age given his anemic batted-ball data.
At the same time, Bellinger’s success against left-handed pitchers and in two-strike counts means he should remain an above-average hitter even if the power drops off. But is that the kind of player you want to make your primary target in free agency? If the Cubs are going to bite the bullet on a massive contract, they may just want to go all the way and see about signing Shohei Ohtani.
Though he’s not a Boras client and thus was not included among the scripted dad jokes, Bob Nightengale reported Tuesday that “several GMs [are] saying that the Cubs may be the most aggressive team for his services.” Skepticism abounds due to the team’s stated aversion to deals stretching beyond 5-6 years and Ohtani’s presumed geographical preference, but there is logic to support a serious pursuit.
More realistic targets are plentify via both free agency and trade, so Jed Hoyer is going to be having conversations about several players who are currently under contract with other teams. Whether or not all his big dick energy from the Craig Counsell deal will be off-putting to other teams is an open question, but it’s reasonable to believe at least one potential trade partner will be treading lightly.
Even with new leadership in place on the baseball ops side, the Mets may still be a little scared of the Cubs. They could also be more than a little spiteful after Hoyer signed their preferred manager and retained Dan Kantrovitz, who the Mets were reportedly eyeing for their front office. Emotion shouldn’t rule decisions, but that doesn’t mean pragmatism always wins out.
Pete Alonso has been the subject of rumors regarding a potential trade fit with the Cubs, and the whispers could get louder if the Mets aren’t able to extend their slugger. David Stearns was clear in his introductory press conference that keeping Alonso beyond this year is a priority, so pay attention to what happens there.
“When it comes to the Polar Bear, we’re not in contract hibernation,” Boras said.
Then we turn to Juan Soto, who looked like such a sure thing to be traded that the Padres had to start floating reports that they planned to hold onto him until the deadline next summer. Those came curiously soon after a report that the team had secured a $50 million loan to help cover payroll, and that was with Soto earning much less than he will in his final year of arbitration.
The Cubs are expected to be involved in any potential negotiations for the lefty-batting slugger with impeccable plate approach, even with the near certainty that he won’t ink an extension. Between his projected $30+ million salary, the limited control, and San Diego’s need to cut costs, it shouldn’t take a huge prospect haul to acquire him.
Not wanting to burn any bridges by worsening the Padres’ unenviable bargaining position, Boras leaned into the idea that a trade is anything but fait accompli.
“Met with the Padres, they laid out their plan for next year, which obviously included a lineup that definitely includes Juan Soto,” the agent said with as much sincerity as he could muster. “He’s their one .900 OPS player, and they’re looking for more left-handed bats rather than less.”
Though there’s really nothing to take away from this other than pure cornball entertainment from the quotes, I have always viewed Scott Boras Day as the unofficial start of the offseason. I mean, the guy wields so much power in free agency every year that he can effectively direct the flow of the winter at his whim. Perhaps that’s a little melodramatic, and I know it irks a lot of folks, but how Boras conducts business really does dictate a lot of what we’ll see even with players he doesn’t represent.