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MLB trying to blame Scott Boras for the slow offseason is straight up silly

He’s clearly not the problem.

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics

There are a lot of takeaways from Jeff Passan’s extensive article on what is happening with baseball’s current offseason and economic situation. Some are solid, some could use a more detailed look at the logic behind the claims, but one is just straight up silly.

Near the top of Passan’s piece, an MLB statement claims

There are a variety of factors that could explain the operation of the market. We can say that without a doubt collusion is not one of them. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause, but it certainly is relevant that an agent who has a long track record of going late into the market controls many of the top players.

The completely denial of any sort of collusion is a silly statement in and of itself, but we’ll get back to that a little later. The allusion that Scott Boras — who as Passan himself notes has never brought as many as four unsigned free agents into January before a season starts — is the one slowing down this offseason is completely disingenuous.

With the news that J.D. Martinez — a Boras client — has only been offered $100 million over five years by the Red Sox, it’s becoming more apparent that Boras isn’t the one gumming up the works because he’s getting greedy with his clients, but that he’s simply doing what good agents do, fighting for the best possible deal for his clients. If no deals are even remotely close to what his clients feel they are worth, then it’s nonsensical to try and negotiate offers of that nature. Teams should be blamed for their apparently severe lowballing, not the agents.

As an aside, Passan’s piece also notes

Agents are logging discussions with teams and the union hunting for patterns to explain why clubs, whose franchise values have exploded from $18.1 billion to $46.1 billion over the last five years, will propose top players contracts with average annual values in excess of $20 million or deals for more than three years but are loath to offer both.

So it’s not just Boras noticing the trend, and it’s not just Boras who is avoiding agreements that will undercut the earnings possibilities of not just current clients, but all future players.

Boras himself only represents a few of the top free agents still left on the market, and he told Yahoo Sports that “I wouldn’t blame the baker if the flour doesn’t show up.” So his ethos is clear in this case, and he’s not afraid to call the league out for giving him nothing to work with for his clients. And even if he was allowing his clients to sign at 25 percent or even 50 percent below market value, who says the other agents would follow suit and get this thing rolling?

There’s no proof that they would go that route, so the entire premise is shot. That is where the comments about collusion come in, since that is the reason the league is trying to redirect the argument in the first place.

As the offseason crawls, and even casual fans start to take notice, the owners and commissioner both have to find a way to keep the PR battle tilted their way and to keep fans on their side as this continues to get worse and more agonizing to sit through — which it looks like it will if things stay on this track — and to set things up for the next battle with the MLB Players Association.

So somehow, they have to direct attention from any inquiries about collusion. But you can’t prove a negative — or even come close to finding anything conclusive without a full inquiry — and just saying “no collusion here!” isn’t convincing enough for people to drop it, which means they have to direct at least some of the blame elsewhere — at the feet of Boras.

That’s not to say that collusion is or is not happening. There are so many factors to consider that could be contributing to this offseason, and conclusions can’t be made yet. This is also not to say Boras has always been the perfect agent.

But when you look at the big picture and take in how muddled things still are, trying to pin a steadfast collusion narrative to the league is just as shaky as them trying to solve all of their causation problems by lobbing the responsibility narrative right back at Boras and the other agents. At least for now.