NASHVILLE – Scott Boras drew the usual massive throng of media this morning to the ballroom area on the Delta side of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Reporters and cameramen camped out, the agent’s representative attempting to clear a path to create room for Boras to reach his designated spot.
A Winter Meetings tradition like no other. The loudest lobby buzz of the week.
Boras usually has little or nothing to say about the Orioles, especially with Chris Davis retired, but representing Gunnar Henderson and Jackson Holliday makes him a must-listen for the local beat crew.
Henderson was named the American League’s Rookie of the Year and finished eighth in Most Valuable Player voting. Holliday, the first-overall selection in the 2022 draft, is ranked as baseball’s No. 1 prospect.
Other teams are signing their young stars to huge contract extensions. Have the Orioles reached out to Boras about their dynamic duo?
Boras paused for a moment and said, “Only once or twice a day.”
A funny line. Boras has a million of them.
It also indicated that the lines of communication are wide open between Boras and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
The Brewers began the Winter Meetings by signing 19-year-old prospect Jackson Chourio to an eight-year, $82 million deal, the largest handed out to a player who hasn’t made his major league debut.
The Braves beat them by four years with extensions for Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies. Acuña was a unanimous selection last month for National League MVP.
Arizona’s Corbin Carroll was inked to an eight-year, $111 million contract after playing 32 games in the majors in 2022, and he was the unanimous NL Rookie of the Year this season.
The mounting examples create more questions about the Orioles’ willingness to spend on their own players.
“With those kinds of things, obviously we listen, and Mike and I talk a lot,” Boras said. “Obviously, our job is to filter those phone calls, relay them to the players. We kind of discuss it and see if it’s something that the player himself is interested in.”
Boras has developed a reputation for leading his clients into free agency rather than negotiating extensions, but there are notable exceptions, including Stephen Strasburg, Elvis Andrus, José Altuve, Xander Bogaerts and Jered Weaver. He works for them. They have the final say, the loudest voices.
There’s an industry perception that the ship already sailed on Henderson based on his early production, and that Holliday would be a tough sell because his family is set financially. But Boras confirmed regular discussions with Elias this offseason, also noting the Orioles’ interest some of his pitching clients.
Elias repeated again this week that he sees no benefit in publicizing his behind-closed-doors business. He stresses it every time he's asked about extensions.
"I think it's great when you can do it and when both sides come together on stuff like that," he said Tuesday. "It's still relatively infrequent because it's hard. You're talking about two sides kind of mutually sharing risk and sharing reward years and years and years and years and years out. It's a difficult thing to line up. I applaud players and front offices anytime it happens. And I've been probably a broken record, but I find it can be damaging when these things are unnecessarily public. We've seen that in other sports, too. I'm just not real vocal about what we're trying or not trying or working on or not working on, and I think it would be wonderful if we have an announcement like that at some point. It's definitely on the long list of methods to keep a franchise healthy."
Holliday played at four levels of the farm system this year and batted a combined .323/.442/.499 in 125 games and 581 plate appearances, with 30 doubles, nine triples, 12 home runs, 75 RBIs, 101 walks and 24 stolen bases. His Triple-A experience consists of only 22 games including the playoffs.
Elias said yesterday that it’s “definitely a very strong possibility” that Holliday makes the club out of spring training at age 20.
“You watch him hit, you watch him play, there’s a calmness to Jackson no matter where he plays,” said Boras, who also represented Jackson’s dad, seven-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday.
“He’s very familiar with the major leagues because of his father. There is no ballpark he’s not comfortable in. So, chronological age really doesn’t matter. He has the emotional and physical tools to compete at the major league level.”
Whether Holliday is ready to make that last jump isn’t up to Boras, of course. But he can express his opinion.
“I think that’s best for the Orioles to decide,” he said, “but certainly he’s someone that is very much knocking on the door.”