Phillies set to renew 'interesting' relationship with super-agent Scott Boras

Phillies set to renew 'interesting' relationship with super-agent Scott Boras

The Phillies will renew what has been at times a trying, but always interesting, relationship with baseball's most powerful agent when club leaders travel to Las Vegas on Saturday.

Somewhere in that desert town of bright lights and big shows, Phillies officials will sit across from Bryce Harper, one of the two megastars on this winter's free-agent market. The other, of course, is Manny Machado, a player the Phillies have already visited with and are actively trying to sign.

The Phillies' interest in Harper is real, but for months it has been clear that Machado is the team's priority. It is unlikely the team would sign both players and club president Andy MacPhail indicated as much back in October. If Machado signs elsewhere, the Phillies' interest in Harper could swell, hence Saturday's meeting with the player in Las Vegas. It will be the first time Phillies officials have met with Harper. They have already had several ground-laying conversations with Harper's super-agent, Scott Boras.

The current Phillies front office knows Boras well, having hammered out a deal with him for Jake Arrieta last year.

But Boras' relationship with the franchise goes back farther than that and it hasn't always been smooth sailing. Working out a deal for first-rounder Carlton Loewer in 1994 was easy, but it was a different story just a few years later when the two sides could not come to an agreement for No. 2 overall pick J.D. Drew and he re-entered the draft after a year of acrimonious negotiations that included Boras appearing via satellite from California on our very own sports network and getting into a testy verbal joust with Curt Schilling, who was then still a Phillie and sticking up for his team.

The Phillies had only limited dealings with Boras for a while after L'Affaire Drew. Things got a little sticky in the fall of 2011 when the two sides were moving toward a contract extension for free agent Ryan Madson before the Phillies quickly pivoted and signed Jonathan Papelbon. Boras was none too happy with the Phillies, but he didn't hold a grudge. He never does. He didn't become the game's most powerful agent by closing doors on potential landing spots for his guys. Heck, he even put on a happy face during the Drew saga and negotiated a one-year deal with the Phils for infielder Mark Lewis in December 1997.

The dust from the Drew situation has long settled and the days when Boras was likened in Philadelphia to the Big Bad Wolf have faded. Even Boras jokes about that. A former minor-league infielder, he recently told of how his affiliation with the Phillies went back to his teen years when he played on a scout team in the Sacramento area run by Eddie Bockman, the legendary former Phillies scout who signed Larry Bowa, Bob Boone and John Vukovich.

"So I wore a Phillie uniform every winter when I had the privilege of playing in that program," Boras said. "I love the Philadelphia fans, I love their intensity. I love how they treat the game of baseball. So I have nothing but brotherly love for the city of Philadelphia."

Does Harper feel the same way?

There have been reports that he does not. That's one of the topics Phillies officials will drill into during their meeting. 

Where once there were few, Boras' stable is now loaded with clients who are Phillies. Arrieta, Nick Williams and Vince Velasquez are all Boras men. Late last summer, Boras snagged Rhys Hoskins as a client. Boras reps Sixto Sanchez, the team's top pitching prospect, Cole Irvin, the organization's minor-league pitcher of the year in 2018, and Cornelius Randolph, the team's top pick in the 2015 draft.

Maybe he'll soon represent another Phillie in Harper. Or maybe the Phillies will get Machado instead. If that happens, Boras won't hold a grudge. He will look for the next match with the team. Mike Moustakas? Dallas Keuchel? Those are his guys, too, and they are still out there and the Phils have had considered both.

Managing partner John Middleton will lead the Phillies contingent to Vegas on Saturday. You know Boras has to be elated about that. Middleton and Boras have some similarities. Both are extremely competitive and want to win. And both are wildly successful businessmen. Boras has long preferred to sit at a negotiating table with the people who own teams. It's almost as if he sees them as equals speaking a shared language. He likes to sell owners on the overall impact that a superstar like Harper will have on an organization, from wins on the field to revenues and franchise values that are generated by those wins.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall Saturday in Vegas.

It will surely be an interesting show.

It always is with Scott Boras and the Phillies.

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2019 a crucial season for Phillies outfielders Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera

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2019 a crucial season for Phillies outfielders Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera

Earlier in the week, we looked at three Phillies pitchers entering make-or-break seasons, players who will need to push their careers forward in 2019 to maintain the role they want and/or currently have.

On to a couple hitters:

Roman Quinn

Quinn came up at the end of July and had a nice six-week run with the Phillies, hitting .345/.375/.560 with six doubles, three triples, two homers and seven steals. He also added a new dynamic in center field, with better speed, instincts, range and a stronger throwing arm than Odubel Herrera.

He went ice cold to end the season, going 5 for 47 with 21 strikeouts in his final 16 games, but the real make-or-break aspect of Quinn's upcoming season won't be the avoidance of a slump but the avoidance of a long-term injury.

Quinn will be 26 on May 14. The most plate appearances he has had in any season is 382 in 2014. In three of the four seasons since, he hasn't reached 300.

Quinn has dealt with so many injuries throughout his career. He's been through a torn Achilles, a torn left quad, a concussion, a strained ligament in his elbow and torn ligament in his right middle finger. 

It's not as though Quinn would face being released if he can't stay healthy this season. Even at 26, he's still inexpensive and cost-controlled for at least another five seasons. But this is the first real opportunity he's had to start on opening day. The Phillies are relying on him, maybe not to play every day but to play a lot in an outfield that also includes Andrew McCutchen, Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. (If the Phils sign Bryce Harper, a trade of an outfielder would be the next logical move.)

If Quinn can play 120-plus games this season, reach 350-400 plate appearances and exhibit his trademark speed and defense with pop sprinkled in like it was last August, he can change the course of his career and what the Phils can realistically expect from him. He can turn himself into an everyday player for the Phils and a top-of-the-order table-setter.

Odubel Herrera

Herrera is already down in Clearwater working out. Smart move. He understands how important Year 5 is for him. 

Herrera is coming off by far his worst season as a major-leaguer. After hitting .288/.344/.430 from 2015-17, he hit .255/.310/.420 in 2018. He did set a career-high with 22 homers, but nearly every other offensive number plummeted. Herrera hit only 19 doubles after hitting 42 the prior year, and he stole only five bases, two years after swiping 25.

Aside from that, Herrera had a series of gaffes on the basepaths and in the field, the kind that can swing games and frustrate teammates. His level of concentration needs to improve, and already being in Clearwater in mid-January as opposed to living it up somewhere else is a good sign. It shows he's focused more on the 2019 season than soaking up every last bit of his offseason.

Herrera's value is lower than it has been the previous three years, but all it would take to reset that conversation for a while is a strong first half. In 2016, he had an excellent first half that led to an All-Star appearance. In 2015 and 2017, he had strong second halves, hitting .329 and .323. When he's going well, Herrera is able to take pitches but also be a bad-ball hitter who uses all fields. When he's not going well, Herrera gives many at-bats away and can be as easy to retire as Ryan Howard used to be during a cold spell.

"Consistency" is an oft-used word in sports that applies to very few athletes. Rare is the player who goes through an entire season without straying too far one way or the other from his baseline. Almost everyone is inconsistent, to a degree. Herrera's inconsistency is more dramatic, and if it remains that way this season in a healthy Phillies outfield, he could very easily lose out on playing time to Quinn, McCutchen and Williams. It's just a different situation in the Phils' outfield than it was the last four seasons with more ready-to-go talent.

We've seen enough of the good Herrera to believe he has the offensive skill set to hit .300 with 30 doubles and 20 homers in a season. For the Phillies to truly contend in a tough NL East, they will need a season like that, regardless of whether they land one of the free-agent superstars.

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At The Yard Podcast: Latest on Harper, Machado and one eye on Mike Trout

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At The Yard Podcast: Latest on Harper, Machado and one eye on Mike Trout

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury discuss the latest with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado's free agency. Which rumors are true? Which rumors are just noise?

What is the potential of the starting rotation? What could the outfield look like with or without Harper?

Also, we're keeping one eye on Mike Trout. When should the Phillies begin their pursuit of the best player in baseball?

1:00 - The latest on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
4:00 - Jim thinks the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees and Cardinals are in on Harper and/or Machado.
10:00 - Are the White Sox serious contenders for Machado?
15:00 - The guys answer questions from the audience.
19:00 - Difference Machado would make defensively.
25:30 - Opening day outfield without Harper.
31:30 - Is baseball's offseason too slow?
35:00 - Keeping an eye on Mike Trout.

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