Mega-agent Scott Boras is at Nationals Park tonight to take in the Marlins-Nats game, and he held court with reporters during batting practice, talking everything from free agent draft pick compensation to long-term contract ideas for a couple of the Nats' young stars to Danny Espinosa's health.
Espinosa is batting just .208 with two home runs, 19 RBIs, 96 strikeouts and 18 walks in 69 games since getting sent down to Triple-A Syracuse in June, this after he had struggled mightily in the big leagues this season.
Boras feels that some of Espinosa's issues are health-related, with what was a torn tendon in his right wrist possibly still posing a problem, but he admits that Espinosa also needs to find a comfortable offensive approach that can get him on track. Boras also says that there's plenty of interest around the league in Espinosa, despite his down year offensively.
"Danny, we all know he has phenomenal major league tools to play shortstop or second base in the big leagues," Boras said. "And believe me, every park I go into, people ask me about Danny. They want to know what he's doing, other teams. So this guy has real value. The thing is, he's got to go through and get an approach that allows him to become a very consistent (hitter). And the great thing, when you're that good of a defender, with that kind of tools, you don't have to be a great hitter. You have to have an approach. That's what I think he's trying to gain down at Triple-A.
"I think he wasn't healthy at the start of the year. I think his wrist, they diagnosed that. We know he wasn't (healthy). But Danny's a gamer. He tried to play through it. But then he got a thumb thing down in Triple-A that hampered him a bit. But he's getting there."
The thumb injury, according to Boras, happened when Espinosa was hit by a pitch about three weeks ago. Espinosa is also playing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, something that he came into the season with after choosing to rehab the injury instead of have it surgically corrected over the winter.
Boras was asked if he thinks the shoulder is causing a problem for Espinosa, in addition to the wrist and thumb issues.
"I think what I heard from Espi more is about his wrist," Boras said. "The wrist, he tried to play through that. I know in San Diego (in mid-May), he was really struggling. But he wanted to be there for the team and do what he can."
That said, Boras did indicate that Espinosa might have some kind of exploratory procedure this offseason to see if the rotator cuff injury has worsened.
"I think anytime any player has any kind of malady, you want to look at it from year to year," he said. "But I think Espi would be the first one to say that a lot of this is about getting something where you feel consistently comfortable in the batter's box. And he's a switch hitter, too. So we have to remember that sometimes it's a difficult path. And then you get the right information from someone and it works."
Boras represents both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, which means that he'll be playing a big part in determining how the Nationals franchise is shaped over the next decade. Strasburg will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, and he's under team control through the 2016 campaign. Harper, meanwhile, won't be arbitration-eligible until after the 2015 season, and the Nats control him through 2018.
Some agents who represent young, emerging stars are willing to negotiate deals that buy out the player's arbitration years and a few years of free agency, providing the player some financial security. Boras is not that type of agent, although he is willing to talk with teams about buying out arbitration years, if the player is interested in doing so.
Boras' main goal, however, is to get to his stars' free agent years, so he can work the market and find the big bucks.
"I'm more into 12-year deals for young players," Boras said with a smile. "The M.O. is that you want to keep within the franchise, you want him there for a long time and you want to be there for the fans and be a marquee for them. So why not? You go back and look for star players, what they usually do over those types of years, you have to say that's a pretty good bet. But when you're getting into years that are short-term for young players, I don't know what the value of that is for a young player, when you're talking about giving away free agent years."
Boras might have been smiling when he made the "12-year deal" comment, but he certainly wasn't kidding. When it comes to position players, especially, Boras made multiple references towards locking the "iconic" players up long-term, and needing to come up with creative ideas to build a franchise around those types of players. Boras didn't reference Harper by name in this discussion, but it's certainly clear who he was talking about.
"You're going to have to do something different if you're going to be a team of distinction," Boras said.
Asked if he's had the 12-year contract discussion with Nats general manager Mike Rizzo, Boras again smiled.
"He says, 'When I get one you get one,' " Boras said.