On Friday "super agent" Scott Boras appeared on Chicago's 670 The Score, discussing one of his clients, top prospect Kris Bryant. While Bryant may be the best third baseman in the Cubs' camp this spring, it is highly unlikely that he will be on Chicago's opening day roster. Boras was asked about his views concerning the way baseball treats its drafted prospects when it comes to service time and future free agency.
Obviously Boras has to say he is against any policy that delays Bryant from signing his first huge contract, and all of this discussion is more about the 2021 season than the next two months. Summarized simply, Bryant can reach free agency following the 2020 season if he were to open the season with the team. Sending him to AAA for as little as a couple of weeks could buy the team another full season.
Boras knows this is not only a good business move for the Cubs to leave him off of the roster, but it is also almost a necessity. Losing a full year later for a few games now would be a terrible move for the team's future.
Although Boras acknowledged this, along with confirming that the team is only following rules established in the collective bargaining agreement, he still made a clear attempt to paint the team as the bad guys here. Playing to the fans, Boras stated the goal of every team should be to win and to put the best players on the field at all times. He insinuated that the fans should accept nothing less from the team. As Boras put it, the integrity of the game is questioned whenever a prospect is left in the minor leagues in order to preserve service time.
So Boras is going to lecture all of us about the integrity of the game. Winning a championship should be the only thing that matters. (He even justified Greg Maddux's move to Atlanta, even though no one asked him to defend himself. I have never heard a Cubs fan question Maddux's decision to leave Chicago.)
But fine. Integrity of the game. I agree. A championship is all that matters, and the best players should be on the field beginning opening day.
Here's the problem though. For that to be a valid argument, it would have to go both ways. If Boras (and Bryant, honestly) believed this was all about the integrity of the game, and that business decisions and future salaries should have no influence on today's decisions, then why not approach the team about working out a deal right now that would end all of the arbitration stuff.
We all know why this won't happen though. Boras would NEVER do that. And he probably shouldn't. And why not? Because by doing so, Bryant would likely lose millions of dollars.
Just look at recent deals signed by Cubs stars Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Castro's eight-year/$60 million deal signed in 2012 was followed the next year by Rizzo's seven-year/$41 million contract. Is Bryant currently in line to blow those contracts away when he reaches free agency? Absolutely. Still, those dollar amounts are more than any of us could ever need to live comfortably, and this is a player who not yet played at the top level.
So go to the team. Say, "We want Bryant on the field to start the season." Let's say eight years for $80 million. Fair deal for both sides, makes Bryant a rich man, and most importantly, the fans get to see the best players on the field. Integrity of the game! And yes, I realize this is absurd, but so was Boras's attempt to make the fans feel like the team was somehow letting us down.
In reality, the way things will work out, Mike Olt will probably be looking at his last shot to force his way into the Cubs lineup. If he comes out of the gate hitting .240-.250 with the power he showed last year, it will be a fun problem for the team to have. Bryant or Olt would have to end up in the outfield, or Olt could be traded. But I do think it's important to let Olt have another shot, and should he immediately fail, I think the team has enough flexibility to cover third base until Bryant's arrival.
I want the Cubs to win now, just as much as anyone else does. But there is no good reason to lose a year of Bryant later for a few games right now. As a Boras client, we know he is a lot less likely to agree to any deal before his free agency is imminent. It's in the team's best interest to delay that process, and as a fan, I fully expect them to do so.