Scott Boras Expects Only Three Serious Suitors in ‘Submarine Race’ Courtship for Bryce Harper

Scott Boras is nothing if not prepared, and it’s that unceasing attention to detail that makes him peerless in his ability to market his clients. In the case of Bryce Harper, that means producing a 118-page handbook explaining exactly how good he is and just how valuable he can be to the franchise that signs him. But while several teams will be meeting with Harper and Boras, the agent tells USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale he expects three serious suitors at most.

And if you’re expecting that small number to result in an abbreviated courtship, you may want to tamp down your expectations.

“This is a submarine race, not a regatta,” Boras says. “You do not want other teams knowing you’re interested in a generation [sic] player. No one wants to be known as a loser in this.”

So clandestine are the proceedings that no numbers have yet been exchanged, either in the way of a formal offer from a team or a demand from Boras. As Nightengale writes, teams are told when and where to arrive for the meetings, which feature both Harper and his wife, Kayla. The conversations include all aspects of the organization, including everything down to how they feel about kids in the clubhouse, but there’s no talk of money. Yet.

The Nationals did make an offer of $300 million over 10 years on the last day of the regular season, which Harper obviously did not accept and which many have taken to mean he’s looking for more in terms of both years and money. One GM told Nightengale he believes that to be the case and Nats owner Mark Lerner said there’s “too much [more] money out there.” But Harper never actually turned the Nats down, he just didn’t say yes. And for what it’s worth, I have been told Boras may be more focused on average annual value than total compensation or length.

Exactly what that means is really anyone’s guess at this point, but it does sound like it’s going to take a very creative pitch that goes beyond simply offering the most money. Suitors are going to have to play the game and appeal to Team Harper on several levels. Or maybe it will be a simple matter of who puts the biggest number on the check, since Boras said one owner has engaged in talks without the knowledge of his GM. Sounds like a really good idea that totally won’t engender mistrust and hurt feelings.

And it’s possible, though not likely, that said unnamed GM will never be the wiser. Given all the mystery and subterfuge, we may never know exactly to what extent any teams beyond the one that signs Harper were involved. If nothing else, Boras is doing a helluva job of marketing his client and leveraging the cloak-and-dagger stuff for all it’s worth.

That’s fun if you and your team are detached from the situation, but it’s clearly taking a toll on those waiting all too anxiously for a decision. Time to go out and buy yourself a home sonar kit, I guess.

Ed. note: Nightengale wrote that the White Sox and Dodgers had met with Harper’s camp weeks ago and a Yahoo report initially placed Magic Johnson at a more recent meeting in Vegas. However, a subsequent denial by the superstar owner led to that report being amended. It’s entirely possible that Magic and/or the Dodgers really weren’t there, but the information above leads me to a little conspiracy theory.

Given how tight a lid Boras is keeping on these meetings, going so far as to have all involved parties arrive separately to avoid being seen anywhere near one another, is it possible he prompted Magic to deny the rendezvous? That seems odd since you’d want other teams to know the Dodgers were involved in a big way, but maybe part of this whole thing is sort of a test to see what teams are willing to do (or not do) in order to abide by Boras’s wishes.

Yeah, I know, sounds wild. But no wilder than an owner taking a meeting sans GM.

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