Leave It to Scott Boras to Create Winter Meetings Chaos

The Winter Meetings haven't featured any blockbuster deals, but Scott Boras created a stir by holding court in a hotel lobby to opine on his clients, league-wide issues and more.
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LAS VEGAS — A Scott Boras appearance is about presentation as much as substance. The superagent’s famously elaborate metaphors carry as much meaning in their figurative structure as their literal message; it’s the former, after all, that draws so much attention to the latter. So it’s hard to imagine that there was anything accidental about Boras’ choice of location for his annual address to the media at baseball’s winter meetings.

He didn’t opt for the Mandalay Bay’s convention center, where the league’s offices have set up shop alongside a reporters’ workroom. He didn’t pick a location around the edges of the building’s casino, where ESPN’s Baseball Tonight has had a television set all week. He did not go upstairs, where the meetings’ annual trade show and job fair have been located. 

Instead, Boras landed in the middle of one of the resort’s breezeways, an area open to the public and trafficked by hotel guests and gamblers and conference attendees alike. A Christmas tree, fully lit and spangled in aquamarine and silver, towered behind him. With a small platform set up at the base of the tree, Boras got ready to hold court—his own personal gift to the baseball world.

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The Mandalay Bay’s security team didn’t appear particularly pleased with the set-up. The passage quickly became choked not just with baseball reporters, but with everyone—fans and passersby glomming on to the scrum to see what was the fuss, blocking access to the hallway beyond the tree. The Starbucks across the hall emptied out; Marlins Man scuffled around the edges of the crowd, attempting to get a photograph, positioning his phone vertically and then horizontally. “Move in or move on,” guards repeated, telling everyone to push in as tight as possible or get out of the way. Moving in was imperative, anyway: Boras had no microphone and spoke at an ordinary conversational volume, audible only to those right in front of him. It underscored that his appearance was not, formally, a press conference. It was just Boras, taking questions in his own space and on his own terms.

And, of course, in his own style. Unsurprisingly, his most tortured figurative language was reserved for the biggest topic of the day—conversations between his most notable client, Bryce Harper, and baseball’s most notable franchise, the New York Yankees. “When the nurse walks into the room with a thermometer, the issue isn’t the temperature that day. It’s their health when they’re ready to leave the hospital,” Boras said. “And they’re not ready to leave the hospital.” In other words, talks are ongoing, and there’s no exact timetable for when the patient will be released. “Something could happen quickly. Something could also happen in a matter of weeks,” he said. Regarding Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s previous comments about how the team has a full outfield, with no room for Harper? Boras brushed it off. “I haven’t heard them say that,” he said. “Maybe they’ve said those things to you.”

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Much of the conversation centered on Harper, but there wasn’t too much in the way of specific revelations or crucial details. He noted that there were teams in the running beyond the most prominent few—“this is not a race where every car is labeled”—and that the 26-year-old has been taking the long view by looking closely at teams’ minor-league systems. The Nationals’ recent comments about the possibility of re-signing him should be noted, Boras said (“When they say the door’s open, I would certainly pay attention to what they say”), and if anyone’s interested in knowing how the agent’s discussion went with the Phillies, wait to pay attention to what they say (“I’ll leave that to the Phillies”).

Wearing a black windbreaker emblazoned with the logo of his agency, Boras Corp., he spoke for nearly an hour. He touched briefly on other clients—Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi will meet with teams later this month in Los Angeles; Anthony Rendon is an “MVP type”; Heisman Trophy winner and A’s draft pick Kyler Murray’s potential to play both football and baseball is “a question for [Oakland EVP of baseball operations] Billy Beane”—and on the greater state of the game, too. (A bigger playoff field, anyone?) And then he was gone, escorted out from under the tree by a security guard, finished sharing his carefully packaged gifts.