The Winter Meetings aren’t the Winter Meetings until 50 or so reporters swarm power agent Scott Boras. It happened just a little bit ago here at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
On the negotiations for free agent Stephen Drew. “Well, we’ve been effective. He’s going to have numerous options to choose from. Obviously there’s a variety of teams that want a shortstop of his defensive acumen and capability with the bat.”
Will you be able to get more than one year for Drew? “That’s not a problem.”
A return to Boston? “Well certainly, everybody agrees that it worked out well for everybody and they are certainly a candidate for him to look at.”
If there are multi-year offers, why hasn’t Drew signed? “Well I think that’s not a decision Stephen has made yet. Because we have to look at the totality of what’s available to him. And some of the offers and positions teams are taking are somewhat contingent on another move. And so, to have a full slate of what’s available to him is not yet something that’s ripe.”
How about getting Ellsbury signed with the Yankees? “Well I think in Ells case, the demand for him, when you’re talking about a center fielder that has the level of playoff experience, won two rings, knows the AL East, I just think the Yankees knew what works in their market and we knew from the ballpark metrics, that he’s going to have a very, very successful career there. Particularly with the shorter RF fence. It was really a lot about their preparation, what the fact that they were very studied, very prepared, and ready to move forward with this. And the fact that we were willing. Ells called me and said … it was kind of easy to understand that the Red Sox had great depth and that they had to open doors for some really great young players. We’ve kind of had this legacy in center fields where we had Damon and then Ellsbury and now Jackie Bradley [in Boston], and in New York, we had Bernie Williams, then Damon and now Ellsbury. We kind of know how the system works.”
Boras thinks his clients, prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr, are ready to be starters for the Red Sox. “Clearly. Bradley played very well in September. He hit about .270 and his defense was great. Bogaerts really established himself in the Major Leagues. When you’ve got a young man that age playing in that environment, it’s a pretty remarkable achievement. I think Xander Bogaerts is going to be one of the top five players in baseball.”
Eight years after Johnny Damon left the Red Sox for the Yankees, another center fielder who led off for a World Series championship team in Boston is about to do the same.
This time, it is Jacoby Ellsbury. It is a story Damon can relate to better than anyone else. I caught up with Damon on the phone a little while ago.
“The good thing is Jacoby brought two World Series championships to Boston and he’s a heck of a player. It just seems like he’s finding a way to stay healthy and he’s going to be awesome for New York. Unfortunately for Boston fans, this is kind of what happens sometimes. As much as your heart belonged to Boston and everything, it comes down to being a business. Unfortunately we’re part of that.”
Ellsbury was a first round pick by the Red Sox in 2005, Damon’s last year in Boston. They were always compared as players, though Damon probably had a little more power while Ellsbury possesses more speed.
“I feel like I was part of the Jacoby Ellsbury business. If they signed me, maybe they would have traded Jacoby. Or Jacoby may not have gotten that shot in Boston,” Damon said. “Things work out for a reason. Unfortunately some fans don’t see it that way. Jacoby has always been compared to me, in a way, since he was signed. So this is just that other comparison. I wish him the best and, yeah, it’s pretty crazy.”
Damon’s power benefited in New York, with the easy pull shots to right and right-center. He hit 77 homers over four seasons in New York, compared to 56 over that same time-span in Boston.
“Oh, I think it’s going to play great for his swing,” Damon said. “He has power and still has a lot of good years left in him. And the thing is, New York needed to do it. They’re not looked at as one of the elite teams. With that signing, it puts them right back into the race again. I thought maybe a month ago, a scenario would play out but I thought maybe Boston would do what they could to sign him.”
Damon hopes Ellsbury doesn’t get quite the same backlash he did from Boston fans.
“I think it depends on what people make of it. Jacoby just helped the team win another World Series,” Damon said. “They’re going to be grateful for that. But the Boston fans are notoriously hateful to Yankee players. The way that Jacoby plays, he’s still going to have the respect throughout the league. The fact is, he hustles, and that’s what Boston wants – somebody who cares about the game and somebody who would run into walls and who would take accountability, and that’s the guy. Yeah, it’s going to be tough at times but he’s a good enough player that the fans are still going to respect what he gave to Boston and what he’s going to give to New York.”
What is it like adjusting to the New York market after playing in Boston?
“I actually thought going to New York was easier to deal with just because there’s so much going on because baseball isn’t the New Yorkers’ everything. They’ve got so many sports teams to follow, they’ve got Broadway, they’ve got actors and actresses, Wall Street, all that stuff. everybody can kind of do their thing. In Boston, it’s great, people invite you to dinner every night. People pay very close attention there, I would say more of a percentage of people. “
And Damon ended the conversation with this.
“And hopefully he enjoys both places as much as I have.”
When Damon left Boston for New York, the Yankees gave him $52 million over four years. The Red Sox were willing to offer four years at $40 million.
In this case, the Red Sox likely weren’t going to go near the seven years the Yankees are willing to invest in Ellsbury.