LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Baseball agent Scott Boras hasn’t changed his stance since the general managers meetings last month. He still wants the Chicago Cubs to act like a big-market team and spend some money -- presumably on his clients -- though he does understand their game plan.
“It appears as though we’re looking at the all-day sucker, so maybe next year,” Boras said Wednesday at the winter meetings.
He quickly explained himself.
“It (a lollipop) takes a long time to dissolve,” Boras said. “The idea is it's going to take some time for them to reach the resolve to say they are going to compete on all fronts.”
In other words, the Cubs' rebuilding process is moving very slowly and isn’t at the point of spending what it would take to bring Boras’ free-agent client Shin-Soo Choo to Chicago, for example.
“It’s not the first time an agent has used the media to try and compel a team into spending huge amounts of money without knowledge of that club’s financial situation,” Cubs president Theo Epstein responded. “We’re not going to get into a war of words with Scott other than to say the folks who work at the Cubs probably have a better understanding of the situation than he does.”
For the record, Epstein and Boras have a very good relationship. Top prospects Kris Bryant and Albert Almora are both Boras clients and Epstein has every intention of signing others -- just not right now.
“It has nothing to do with the baseball people or how the organization is run, it’s just that you have a major market team that has dramatically more revenue than most clubs who take this type of approach,” Boras stated.
Boras was quick to separate the Cubs' front office from the business side of the equation.
“I think everyone knows we have great respect for the baseball people there,” Boras said.
That can easily be interpreted as a shot toward ownership. Fans must like a person of Boras’ cachet doing the dirty work for them. There’s little doubt the Cubs' front office wants to spend money on players. They claim they will someday. In fact, Epstein promised it.
“The most important component of our financial picture is the television deal,” he said. “If you follow the megadollars in free agency you can trace it back to teams that struck pay-dirt with their local television rights.”
The most recent example of this is in Seattle. The Mariners have a deal for local television rights worth $2 billion over the next 17 years.
And they’re spending that money now.
Epstein reiterated that when new money starts to roll in from Cubs’ television contracts as well as new revenues from within Wrigley Field, his crop of prospects should be ready for the big leagues.
“I promise you when that happens we will be significantly more active,” Epstein said. “I have an internal feeling on when. I have a framework of when that will come. We lack certainty with young players because development is not set in stone.”
This is one reason the Cubs have never put a timeline on their turnaround. They can’t predict when their youth will become solid major leaguers.
“Once those players get major league-ready they’re infinitely more valuable,” Epstein said.
And that’s about the time the money should be rolling in, at least according to the Cubs. For now, it means taking the abuse from people like Boras.
“It’s just with major-market teams you see a little bit different approach,” Boras said. “This is more of a customary small-market approach, if you will. … The Cubs have the capacity to sign any player they want at any time. The question is whether it fits their plan and it's good business.”
Right now, it doesn’t. At least Epstein and Boras can agree on that. The latter was asked if he had seen anything like it before in sports: a big-market team acting like a small-market one over the course of several years.
“It’s a question,” he paused, “since I can’t answer it, I’m going to have to look into history. I’ll say it’s something I’d have to research. It’s been that long.”