The Yankees, Major League Baseball and the reaction to Scott Boras

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury stands with his agent Scott Boras during his introductory press conference at Yankee Stadium on December 13, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury stands with his agent Scott Boras during his introductory press conference at Yankee Stadium on December 13, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Yankees are experiencing just one of the changes that have come to Major League Baseball and Hot Stove 2.17. And that’s the reason this is the most interesting baseball article you’ll read today.

The Yankees, thank god for the Yankees. That’s what most baseball fans have been saying because, without their off-season moves, there might have been no moves at all. Yes, the Anaheim Angels of Continguous Counties signed some Japanese player, but that has been about it.

Otherwise, the off-season has been just that. The dearth of activity has opened the door for a deluge of articles about Gerrit Cole, JD Martinez, and why the hot stove has been so cold.

Cole could probably win a poll for Least Liked athlete in New York by now, and he’s never played there.

All of which has kept the spotlight off of the three big free agents and the fact that even they have not signed. In years past, the bidding wars for Martinez, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb would have begun when the market did. Not this year.

While there is something to be said for the deep breaths and recent recalibrations in front offices all over baseball due to the Angels and Yankees seismically shifting the playing field, the real answer is evolution.

And the situation created by Scott Boras over the last few seasons.

Change is the only Constant

In the beginning, the hot stove was pretty simple: The best players were all either signed or traded by mid-December. Robinson Cano was signed by the Mariners before Dec. 15th in 2013, David Price was signed by Dec. 1st in 2015, and Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees on Dec. 10th in 2007.

But the man who seems to be always one step ahead of the game, Scott Boras, has finally changed the game. This is a process that started a few years ago when Boras decided to hold on to one or two good-to-excellent players until at least late December. Eventually, that became mid-January.

More from Yankees News

Today, almost the entire market has shifted to the first month of the new year.

Observers were at first skeptical. They assumed Boras had overplayed his hand and priced his players out of the market. Instead, he was creating the new market, the market for scarcity.

Scarcity always drives up price.

Here’s a question I’ve posed to college business and marketing students for years: What would you do if you had three letters written by Jesus?

The answer, you’d burn two of them and sell the third for more money than god.

Boras has applied that simple business lesson for years. If we go back far enough, we will find late November to early December as the hottest times of the stove season. But Boras has been working the late December to mid-January schedule so long that his signings seem de rigueur.  Here’s some of his past work.

"Carlos Beltran (Signed seven-year, $119 million deal with New York Mets on Jan. 13, 2005)Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees just before Christmas in 2008.Adrian Beltre (One-year, $10 million with Boston Red Sox on Jan. 5, 2010; five-year, $80 million deal with Texas Rangers on Jan. 4, 2011)Prince Fielder (Nine-year, $214 million with Detroit Tigers on Jan. 25, 2012"

Gotta Have A J-O-B

Boras and his clients have clearly done well by waiting out the market. Over the last two years, however, the Yankees, MLB, and the other agents caught up to Boras. Here is an excerpt from an excellent article by Jeff Todd and Charlie Wilmouth of MLB Trade Rumors from almost one year ago today:

"The month of January isn’t always a big month for free agent signings, but it can be at times. In 2016, in particular, a wide variety of high-profile free agents had yet to sign when the calendar flipped.As things stand entering 2017, players like Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Jason Hammel, Matt Wieters, Michael Saunders, Mike Napoli, Greg Holland, Travis Wood, and Neftali Feliz all remain available despite entering the winter listed among the top 25 players on MLBTR’s annual ranking of the top 50 free agents.Other unsigned players include Brandon Moss, Luis Valbuena, Nick Hundley, Chase Utley, Rajai Davis, Angel Pagan, Adam Lind, Pedro Alvarez, Kurt Suzuki, and Colby Rasmus, along with a variety of relievers (e.g., Joe Blanton, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Fernando Salas, Boone Logan, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen)."

The 2017-2018 ice cold hot stove did not arise in a vacuum. Instead, it is the tipping point after years of slow change.

The Other Shoe

But there is another reason for the late season. Last year, the impact of this change played out in the biggest media market in America, NYC.

The Mets jumped out in front of everyone to ensure they would retain Yoenis Cespedes. The immediate reaction was overwhelming approval. This from Cory Lack of Amazin’ Avenue:

"Cespedes had a great year for the Mets, hitting really, really well. You know this already, as does every single person reading this delightful piece of news. Cespedes was the brightest spot on the team’s roster last year, and even reaching the Wild Card game without his contributions would have been unfathomable."

And this from the Washington Post:

"The Mets needed to re-sign Cespedes, because he is their most dynamic offensive player.Now, the top hitter on the market is probably Toronto first baseman-designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, followed by Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner."

The Wilpons had to be enjoying the adoration.

But then the full effects of the waiting plan took hold; Turner didn’t sign for three weeks and Edwin for a month. It seemed like everyone else had gotten a memo on how the new free agency worked but the Wilpons.

By mid-January, callers and talk show hosts were either questioning the wisdom of signing Cespedes so early or outright excoriating the Mets for overpaying. This year, callers and hosts are killing the Mets for not signing anyone yet; it actually makes me sympathize with the Wilpons. Weird.

And it was that debate, played out for a least a month in New York, that was the final impetus for GMs and agents to take a new approach to the off-season. In a word, that approach is: Patience.

Even the Evil Empire Can be Virtuous

Now, this approach is about to be rewarded, at least for fans and scriveners. Not only have teams waited for the best free agents, but they’ve also waited for almost all of the free agents. That means there will be a flurry of activity soon.

And that the hot stove is about to explode.

Next: See How the Yankees and Angels have Reshaped the Baseball Landscape

Because, not only are Arrieta and the other aforementioned players absolutely going to be signed, but also many others. Here is one list of the remaining free agents, which does not include all the players who are going to be traded. And it is all part of the new Cold Stove Season.

The Yankees want a starter, the Red Sox need a bat, and the Orioles will have to stop pretending they might not trade Manny Machado. And everyone wants pitching.

That should make for a fun January. It better, because it has made for a very boring November and December. Except for the Yankees. They got their Christmas present early: Giancarlo Stanton.

Which is why everyone in baseball is saying, the Yankees, god curse the Yankees.