As spring training approaches and dozens of marquee free agents remain unsigned, agent Scott Boras said he anticipated this late-developing market and is confident his players will find landing spots -- even if the deals come after the traditional start of spring training.
Boras, who represents J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas and a dozen other established free agents who have yet to sign contracts, said he expected more signings than usual to be pushed back to February because the Miami Marlins and other clubs flooded the market with talented players in trades and Major League Baseball front offices invested so much time and manpower in a pursuit of Shohei Ohtani in December.
"I'm not ready to evaluate anything because of the market delay,'' Boras told ESPN. "You have to let the market be a market before you can evaluate it.
"I believe that every good owner in the game wakes up and says there's an opportunity that exists today that didn't exist yesterday. Regardless of what the date on the calendar is, if it's good business, you should do it.''
Pitchers and catchers for the 30 MLB clubs will be streaming into camps in Florida and Arizona starting Monday, but Boras said he expects several players to come off the board once teams look at their rosters and assess the needs that still exist.
"We've had players that reported in February and the middle of March,'' he said. "The key thing is, we are dutifully making sure that all of our clients are ready to play.''
Boras' relatively serene and patient take on the market comes amid a turbulent week for baseball. More than 90 of the 166 players who declared free agency in November are still unsigned, and MLB and the players' association have taken turns trading barbs this week.
After MLBPA executive director Tony Clark charged teams with a "race to the bottom'' that "threatens the integrity of the game,'' the commissioner's office said much of the blame lies with agents who misread the market.
So many players are still looking for jobs, the players' association has been making contingency plans for a separate spring training for unsigned free agents. But Boras said he does not expect any of his clients to take part in the initiative.
"Boras Corp has two sport fitness institutes with diamonds, cages and weight facilities,'' he said. "We have resources and staffing to make sure our players are prepared when they reach agreements.''
Several of Boras' top clients appear to have deals on the table. Hosmer reportedly has received a seven-year offer from the San Diego Padres, while the Boston Red Sox reportedly extended a five-year offer to Martinez. In addition, sources said that closer Greg Holland received a substantial offer to return to the Colorado Rockies before the team filled its closer void by signing Wade Davis to a guaranteed three-year, $52 million deal.
The numbers show that free-agent spending is down markedly this offseason. According to ESPN Stats & Information, teams have spent slightly less than $800 million on free agents this winter, compared to $2.53 billion two years ago and $1.45 billion last offseason.
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain's $80 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers is the most lucrative free-agent deal of the winter. A year ago, Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets signed the only nine-figure contract of the offseason. In contrast, seven free agents signed contracts of $100 million or more during the 2015-16 offseason.
"If you were telling me we've already spent $4.3 billion on players and there's no money and all those players are there, I would say it's a concern,'' Boras said. "But when the profits are the greatest, the franchise values are the highest and the revenues are the most extreme in all the teams' existence -- when you have that and you still haven't spent the money -- it creates that opportunity on a daily basis for teams.
"These owners are captains of industry. They're smart people. They're going to look at it and say, 'If I get ahead of my competitor and increase my probability of winning and I increase my ability to attract fans, my TV ratings, my playoff opportunities and my [regional sports network] potential for the future, I'm going to go out and get somebody that's still there because it's going to provide all those positives for me.''
While free-agent signings have been slow, trades have been plentiful this offseason. Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Gerrit Cole, Dee Gordon and Ian Kinsler have all changed teams in trades since December.
Boras also cited the carryover impact of a novel event when the Japanese star Ohtani, who typically would have landed a deal of nine figures or more, hit the open market at age 23 and was available to all 30 teams at a bargain price. Ohtani generated interest throughout the game before signing with the Los Angeles Angels on Dec. 9.
Boras, who has become known for his colorful analogies about baseball economics, described this winter's lack of hot stove activity in nautical terms.
"Let's allow the ships to get in from their quest in the ocean,'' he said. "They went all the way to Japan [for Ohtani]. Then they stopped at sea to pick up the sunken ship in Florida. Eventually they're going to get to their residential docks, and they can evaluate what they want to do to be adequately fulfilled for their journey at sea for the season.''