April 24, 2024

No matter how high the projected contracts or reported bids for outfielder Cody Bellinger or pitcher Blake Snell might have been last winter, the agent for both players said he was aware early on that the players would have to choose between a high annual salary over the short term or a lower annual salary over the long term.

“We knew that going in,” agent Scott Boras said Thursday at Dodger Stadium, before the Dodgers played their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bellinger signed with the Chicago Cubs for three years and $80 million, Snell with the San Francisco Giants for two years and $62 million. Both players can opt out at the end of each season.

Bellinger hit .307 with 26 home runs for the Cubs last season, but after two consecutive seasons with the Dodgers in which he performed below league average. Snell won the National League Cy Young award last season, pitching 180 innings with a league-leading 2.25 earned-run average for the San Diego Padres, but after consecutive seasons in which he pitched 128 innings both times.

“Blake Snell has $30 million a year for a couple of years to go out and just show durability,” Boras said. “Blake Snell doesn’t have to go out and win the Cy Young every year. He’s an extraordinary pitcher. The market viewed him as, what happened in ‘21 and ‘22?

“The market viewed Cody as, what happened in ‘21 and ‘22? So we knew going into this process that choices were going to be most important. You’re either going to get the appropriate AAV (average annual value), but you’re not going to get the length, or you’re going to get the length at a much lower AAV, so what do you choose?”

The MLB Trade Rumors website projected that four Boras free agents — Bellinger, Snell, infielder Matt Chapman and pitcher Jordan Montgomery — each would sign for at least $150 million.

None did; the four signed for a total of $221 million, or more than $100 million less than the Dodgers spent on pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Boras said he did not put stock into projections made by reporters, in particular the ones made for Bellinger and Snell.

“I don’t think their predictions included what we were fully aware of,” Boras said, “and that is, clubs were going to come to us and say, ‘We’re not going to look at length with premium AAVs because of what preceded their performance prior to 2023.”

Boras is a common target among fans and rival agents. He bristled at the notions that his strategies might no longer be as effective or that he might have misread this winter’s market.

He also represented South Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee, who signed for $113 million with the Giants, and negotiated a $125-million extension for infielder Jose Altuve with the Houston Astros. In three of the previous five winters, he said, his agency had negotiated more than $1 billion in contracts, and there are ebbs and flows to what owners spend each winter. In this one, he said, half the teams either cut payroll or “remained stagnant.”

Said Boras: “One billion dollars was removed from the ability to contract players.”

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