Baseball's most prominent agent, Scott Boras, openly criticized the Toronto Blue Jays' stagnant offseason on Sunday, likening the team to a "car with a huge engine that is impeded by a big corporate stop sign."
Speaking to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Boras, the man who represents the likes of Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder, 2013 AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper, places the blame on general manager Alex Anthopoulos's failure to dip into the free agent market on the shoulders of Jays' ownership, a group Boras deems "a successful and committed ownership that needs to give their baseball people financial flexibility."
"There is no one who has the asset base of Rogers," Boras said to Rosenthal. "[Toronto's] a premium city. It's a premium owner with equity. And it's a very, very good team that with additional premium talent could become a contending team."
Outside of catcher Dioner Navarro, the Jays, tipped to be after free agent pitching and a second baseman, have remained entirely inactive while the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, A.J. Burnett and Masahiro Tanaka found new clubs. Because the team has two protected first-round picks, the Jays seemingly would have leverage when it comes to compensation-eligible free agents.
Anthopoulos, for his part, defended ownership on being informed of Boras's remarks.
"Our ownership has been outstanding and given us all the resources we need," said Anthopoulos.
The Blue Jays and Boras have traditionally had a frosty relationship. Boras's very first major contract showdown was between the Jays and reliever Bill Caudill in 1984. After acquiring the pitcher from the Oakland A's, Boras negotiated a five-year extension for his client at $1.5 million a season that made him the highest paid player on the team. Caudill flamed out due to injury and was released in 1986 after pitching only just over 105 innings for the team. The acrimony from the deal lingered.
In 2009, the Jays drafted lefty starter James Paxton of Ladner, BC. The Jays could not come to an agreement with Paxton, who was being advised by Boras at the time, and he chose to head back to the University of Kentucky to play for its baseball team. Blue Jays president Paul Beeston called into question the actual nature of Paxton's relationship with Boras.
"Because it was Scott, the way you deal, you deal through him," Beeston told the Globe and Mail at the time. "You don't deal through the family."
The NCAA allows its athletes to have "family advisers," but forbids them from having agents, as it would compromise their amateur status. Due to Beeston's comments, the NCAA launched an investigation into Paxton's arrangement with Boras. Paxton did not participate with the investigation out of fear of being suspended by the school. Kentucky, fearing that the school would face sanctions if it allowed Paxton to play whilst under investigation, filed a motion that allowed Paxton to keep his scholarship and remain part of the team, but did not let him actually play in any games. Part of that filing included the suggestion that Paxton breached the "no agent" rule. Paxton, now a member of the Seattle Mariners, was eventually declared ineligible and left the school for a Texas team in the independent league.
Boras currently represents two of the last three compensation free agents on the market (with starter Ervin Santana the other) in Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. The Jays don't appear to have any interest in Morales, but could explore the possibility of slotting Drew in at second base. The 30-year-old former Red Sox shortstop has never played a game at second in his career.
The Blue Jays open their exhibition schedule on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin, Florida.