Defying a slowdown in the Major League Baseball free-agent market last offseason that has driven tensions between players and clubs to perhaps their highest point since the 1994 strike season, super-agent Scott Boras remains confident that he can, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, "break the bank" with his current crop of free agents. The Boras group is led by World Series opposing pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole.
Of the 13 top free agents on the market, seven are Boras clients — including the top three. Former Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon rounds out that trio, as the top position player available. Hurlers Cole, and Rendon's Washington Nationals teammate Strasburg, are the other two, according to the MLB.com rankings of the 2019 free-agent class.
The free-agent market slowed to crawl last offseason, with superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado taking until February to receive offers that met their requirements. Two other high-ranking free agents, pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, did not sign with any team in the offseason. Keuchel took until June 7 to sign with the Atlanta Braves.
Kimbrel, who leads all active relief pitchers in saves, signed with the Chicago Cubs on June 7. He signed a multi-year deal with Chicago.
Keuchel, however, is back on the free-agent market, with Boras as his agent.
Boras told The Journal that he is unworried about a similar fate affecting his current crop of free agents.
"The clubs are wanting meetings and they're wanting to get in front of the players, and they're all telling me that they want to make much earlier decisions," Boras said. "I did not hear any of that last year."
Boras has already met with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo. The two sat for an hour at baseball's annual General Managers Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Tuesday, according to a report by The Washington Post. The Nationals have expressed interest in bringing both Strasburg and Rendon back to the nation's capital as the team tries to repeat as World Series champions.
But with Boras guiding the negotiations, the Nationals will likely need to balloon their payroll by $75 million in 2020 alone to bring back both the World Series MVP Strasburg and likely National League MVP Rendon, according to the Post report.
According to The Journal, the seven top free agents represented by Boras may sign contracts totaling up to $1 billion. Cole, the former Houston Astros 20-game winner, appears likely to attract a contract in the $250 million range, which would be a new record for a free-agent pitcher.