CHICAGO -- Agent to the stars Scott Boras wants you to know one thing about his clients: Not all of them get to free agency.
“For every one of my players who’s gone to free agency, I can name you Greg Maddux or Bernie Williams or Jason Varitek who stayed home,” Boras said last weekend.
The topic came up because Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta is inching toward his big payday and many want to know if he’ll hit the open market or stay with the Cubs. The reigning pitcher of the month takes the mound on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks for the first time since throwing a no-hitter last Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s 17-6 with a 2.11 ERA this season. He had a 0.43 ERA in August.
“If the franchise is winning and ownership is willing, we certainly don’t mind long-term relationships,” Boras said.
Don’t worry, there’s no reason to panic just yet if you’re a Cubs fan. Arrieta still has two more seasons of arbitration before he can start taking bids from other teams. He’ll get paid handsomely one way or another next year, but more than likely it’ll be for just one season. The Cubs need another top-of-the-rotation pitcher and with so many free agents available, that’s more than likely where they’ll spend their money, so tying up Arrieta long term probably isn’t in the cards right now. With two more years of control, the ball is in the Cubs’ corner -- for the moment.
“You’re on the bus, but you’re not driving it,” Boras said of his role right now.
The agent gets to do the driving when the player becomes a free agent. Then they can dictate nearly everything. And though some of Boras’ clients have signed long-term deals before reaching free agency, most hit the market, such as Max Scherzer, who signed with the Washington Nationals for $210 million last winter.
“The reality is it’s up to the player,” Boras said. “Each player has his own philosophy and needs to take care of it.”
Usually a player who re-signs with his team has to take some sort of a hometown discount. Why else would a team ink an early deal? They have to get some benefit.
After his no-hitter, Arrieta was asked what it meant getting traded to the Cubs in July 2013.
“I came over to this organization and was embraced by everybody and they made me feel extremely welcome and the comfort level was there from the get-go,” Arrieta said. “It was like a seamless transition. I came over and started to do some things that helped me be more consistent. I still think I can continue to progress.”
It sounds as though Arrieta might owe the Cubs something but he’s living up to his end of the bargain as well, so it’s hard to know how far that loyalty goes. How much is the right discount? Scherzer became a star in Detroit after leaving Arizona, but he had no problem signing elsewhere. There are countless other players who seemingly are comfortable in their surroundings, but leave for greener pastures. But this is Chicago and the Cubs have done well by Arrieta whereas his previous employer, the Baltimore Orioles, may have stifled him some.
“They really let Jake be himself,” Boras said. “It’s the Jake I saw in college. “
The Cubs did that, not some other organization. Money might be the deciding factor in a new deal for the right-hander, but loyalty has to play a part in the equation. For both sides. A year from now, Boras and the Cubs should start discussing a long-term contract because he’s becoming invaluable. Not long after his no-hitter, he was asked if the thought the baseball world took notice of him after his career game.
“If you don’t know me by now, you better ask somebody,” he responded. “I’ve been doing it for a while. I think I can still get better, as most of the best in the game feel.”