Bill Madden: Teams not willing to play ball with Scott Boras and his ridiculous asking prices

NEW YORK — It would appear Scott Boras’ winter of discontent is having a trickledown effect with the fans of a number of wannabe contenders — the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Twins and most notably the Mets — who are letting out a collective cry: “Is this all there is?”

At present there are five “top tier” unsigned free agents — Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman and J.D. Martinez — all of them Boras clients and all of whom would seemingly provide substantial upgrades, especially the two 31-year old lefty starters, to any team. So why have there been no bites? It’s complicated, other than the fact that, as usual, Boras is commanding exorbitant contracts for them in hopes that teams, getting hammered daily by their fans, will get desperate and meet his price.

In the case of Snell, Boras was said to be asking for a nine-year deal at $30 million per. Despite winning his second Cy Young Award in ’23, Snell has (1) never pitched more than 180 2/3 innings in a season, (2) exasperates managers with his number of pitches in the game and (3) last year led the majors with 99 walks. So far the Yankees are the only team to have even made an offer for Snell, who averages 5.6 innings per game, and it was nowhere near Boras’ asking price. As one American League exec told me: “Boras is trying to sell Snell as a top-of-the-rotation workhorse and he’s just not.”

What about Montgomery? For the ex-Yankee, Boras is said to be seeking a contract comparable or better to the seven-year, $172 million the Phillies gave Aaron Nola to re-up. Considering that Nola’s ERA over the last three years was 4.09 compared to Montgomery’s 3.48, it would seem Boras’ ask for him (if that’s what it really is) is much more reasonable. But as is his habit, Boras is perfectly content to sit tight into spring training and even beyond in some cases, until a team’s key player goes down with an injury and he makes his deal.

But that’s happened twice already since spring training began — on Feb. 15 when the Orioles announced last year’s ace Kyle Bradish would be sidelined indefinitely with an elbow injury and then last Thursday when the Mets revealed their ace Kodai Senga has a moderate posterior capsule strain in his right shoulder that will shut him down for at least 3-4 weeks. In both cases, however, the Orioles and Mets said they would not be investing in a big ticket free agent to address their top-of-rotation voids.

Much as Mets fans would like to see Steve Cohen flex his financial muscles to keep the Mets competitive, it’s become clear that’s not in David Stearns game plan. So far the new Mets president of baseball operations is operating the Mets like his old team, the Milwaukee Brewers. After making a strong bid for Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Cohen’s insistence, Stearns immediately scaled down considerably, filling the Mets rotation on a shoe string with low budget deals for oft-injured Luis Severino and back-of-the-rotation mediocrities Sean Manaea and Adrian Houser.

Stearns has got Cohen convinced that the way to go is to invest his money on infrastructure — i.e. the farm system — and not overpriced free agents. Easy to say right now when the Mets are nowhere near the Braves and Phillies talent-wise in their own division, but anytime you’re writing off a season, it tends to look a whole lot like tanking.

Ordinarily, you would think Boras might be able to land a deal to his liking for his two starting pitchers with any one of the Red Sox, Cubs or Angels, all of them big market teams with starting pitching needs, but for some reason none of them so far has been inclined to do much to improve their lot for ’24.

In Boston the winter long hue and cry has been for owner John Henry to cease with this austerity program of limited two-year-only free agent deals, and it grew considerably louder last week when Rafael Devers called out the Red Sox hierarchy, saying “they have to make an adjustment to help us players to be in a better position to win.” Right now the 2024 Red Sox starting rotation is a very underwhelming Lucas Giolito, Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford and Tanner Houck.

Likewise, the Cubs after luring manager Craig Counsell to Wrigley Field with a record five-year, $40 million contract, have mysteriously done almost nothing toward acquiring players around him to help him win. It was thought they would almost certainly re-sign Bellinger to play center field after his 26 HR/97 RBI/20 stolen bases season last year, but apparently Boras’ asking price has soured them on him. They also badly need a power hitting third baseman but again have been lukewarm on the strikeout prone Chapman.

You would also think Angels owner Arte Moreno, after losing Shohei Ohtani to the Dodgers (and in the process saving $700 million) would want to spend some of that savings improving the starting pitching which is always an issue in Anaheim. That’s what Mike Trout thinks and he’s been pressuring Moreno to do something but the owner has so far been disinclined to bid on either Snell or Montgomery.

Right now, it’s looking like a long ’24 for the fans in Boston, Chicago (White Sox included), Anaheim and Flushing. Boras is counting on them to keep the heat on the team ownerships to start opening up their wallets. Met fans in particular are wondering how long Stearns can keep a leash on Cohen.