Scott Boras says MLB teams more eager for talking this year

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Scott Boras, who represents most of this offseason’s elite free agents, predicted Wednesday that the recent MLB freeze on free agency could thaw sooner rather than later.

“Clubs are wanting meetings and wanting to get in front of the players,” Boras said from the general managers meetings. “They’re all telling me they want to make much earlier decisions. I did not hear any of that last year.”

When asked whether any of his high-profile clients might sign before mid-January, Boras said, “I think all of them have the possibility of signing much earlier than that.”

Boras knows all too well how long it’s taken for top names to sign free-agent deals over the past couple of years.

His client Bryce Harper inked his contract with the Philadelphia Phillies late this past February, while another Boras client, Jake Arrieta, was a March signee the year before, also with Philadelphia. What once took place at the winter meetings has been extended into spring training — or beyond — but Boras believes that could change this time around. “I’m frustrated in the sense that the game has been hurt by it,” he said of the delays. “Hurt by it in the sense that fans want [players to sign].”

Boras thinks teams would rather explore the trade market first, trying to “dupe” other teams into bad trades — based on their own analytics — before they turn to free agency, hence the delays.

He gave no indication where Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and many of his other free agents will end up, but made it clear that the predictive production models, which contribute to contract negotiations, are “grossly” undervaluing players.

“We have a system that is never evaluating the premium player in the game appropriately,” Boras said. “We can really see we’ve invoked a criteria that is not objective, but subjective, to a means to an end of underevaluation, particularly to premium players in the game.”

To illustrate his point, Boras reeled off wins-over-replacement (WAR) predictions over the past few seasons on his players, who then went on to exceed those preseason numbers. His point was those models shouldn’t be used to formulate a contract.

“What we’re learning is the system is askew,” Boras said. “The answer is the algorithms are not predictive … because they always have regressive analysis but they don’t have a progression for talent and greatness and what players do.”

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