After all that went down on the economic front at baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, there had to be consequences.
There were: Not enough room and time to include all the quotable morsels and news nuggets from conversations with agent Scott Boras, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem, MiLB president Pat O’Conner, and others.
Here are some choice leftovers:
■ A couple of hours after the announcement of Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $245 million deal with the Nationals — before Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon signed for $569 million more — Boras (who represents all three) bumped into MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in the Manchester Grand Hyatt lobby.
I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got more teams competing,’ and he’s going, ‘That’s good,’ ” said Boras. “And I said, ‘I’m glad you had the conversation [with teams] because you wanted these Winter Meetings to mean something, you wanted them to be something that makes a story. Today, MLB was interesting.’
“He knows it’s interesting. He’s very happy because they’ve got a real watermark contract, a big World Series star signed a big contract, and it brings notice to the game. These are things that help baseball and create interest in baseball.”
■ O’Conner was a proponent of the “Save America’s Pastime Act” that got inserted, with the help of US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, in an omnibus spending bill last year. Part of O’Conner’s support for the bill, which exempts minor league players from having to be paid a minimum wage, is that it would eliminate overtime pay, too, and in theory prevent a flurry of future class-action suits from players.
O’Conner said he also believed that the act would produce a “50–70 percent raise” in minor leaguers’ salaries, which are paid by Major League Baseball.
But, said O’Conner, “Nothing in 2019, nothing in 2020 — there’s not been a raise yet.”
O’Conner also said he spoke with McConnell’s staff regarding MLB’s contraction plan. One of the teams on the list is the Single A Lexington (Ky.) Legends. O’Conner thinks McConnell’s responsibilities in the ongoing impeachment proceedings, which are expected to lead to a Senate trial, will keep him from being outspoken on the baseball matter. McConnell, said O’Conner, “doesn’t need to lead on this one considering what’s going on in Washington.”
■ Boras said a World Series victory adds $30 million in revenue to a franchise.
“And,” said Boras, “if you own your own network, like the Red Sox do? Oh my God, they make literally hundreds of millions of dollars extra.”
■ Regarding the flurry of Congressional members who are joining Minor League Baseball’s cause, Halem said, “I’ve met with a lot of them; you have to remember that public messaging always may be different than private messaging. The meetings I’ve had have generally been fine meetings with politicians.”
■ Boras estimated that 80 percent of the speculation he hears about his clients and teams on TV are “completely inaccurate — demonstrably and annually. I have to tell clients, ‘You’re going to hear all this and all that, and it’s not true. Call us.’ Even though the majority of it is very positive to the player.”
■ Halem said MLB officials met with the independent leagues in San Diego, and came away believing that MiLB’s concerns about communities not wanting to watch unaffiliated baseball are unwarranted. Part of that, said Halem, is MiLB’s stance on independent leagues
“Even before we had this dispute with the minor leagues, they view independent leagues as the enemy, right?” said Halem.
Halem said independent leagues and teams have looked at some of the markets MLB has targeted for contraction and said “they’ll take them and they’ll make it work in their cities; they gave me lists of which ones they want.
“So it’s just a little disingenuous from the minor-league side to say baseball is leaving the cities. OK, maybe if we went through with this plan, affiliated baseball may leave, but baseball will be there.”
■ Boras described the seven-year, $153 million contract Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees in December 2013 — the final guaranteed year of which the Yankees are trying to get out of paying — as an “injury contract.” He said that Ellsbury played “reasonably well” — he stole 102 bases, producing a total of 9.8 bWAR — in the four years he played.
Boras added, “I can name 10 contracts for every one that doesn’t go well.”
■ More Boras: Because Strasburg and Cole each has a 94-m.p.h. fastball and two outstanding breaking pitches, he invented the term “tri-phasic pitcher” to describe them to interested teams.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.