Avila, Tigers meet face-to-face with Boras
Agent says club will do what it takes to contend again
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Tigers' front office has changed. The dynamic between owner Mike Ilitch and agent Scott Boras, by all appearances, remains the same.
At the end of a season that saw the Tigers struggle to find footing, trade veterans for prospects at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, change general managers and fall to the American League Central cellar for the first time since 2008, Boras sought guidance on what it meant for the Tigers' approach. So, he said, he talked with Ilitch and new GM Al Avila at season's end.
"We actually had a meeting with Al and Mr. I and got all that, talked about their plan, what they're doing, the whole thing," Boras said in an impromptu media session with reporters Wednesday at baseball's General Managers Meetings.
According to Boras, it was an old-school, face-to-face meeting -- not a conference call, not a trade of texts.
"We actually met personally in Detroit," Boras said.
He left with the expectation that the Tigers intend to do what they must to contend again, as Avila has said since taking over as GM.
"I expect the Tigers to do everything they can to be competitive," Boras said.
That doesn't mean the Tigers and Boras will make the kind of deals that shook the market over the past 12 years. But with Detroit seeking two starters, multiple relievers and a left fielder, and Boras having a stake in the pitching market beyond the top tier, they're likely to talk again.
The history of the Tigers' vault to contention could include a chapter on Boras and Ilitch. Their negotiation to bring Ivan Rodriguez to Detroit after he won a World Series with the Marlins helped begin the Tigers' rise from 119 losses in 2003 to an AL pennant three years ago. Magglio Ordonez, another Boras client, signed a year later, followed by Kenny Rogers. Their work on the fly to sign Prince Fielder in 2012 helped the Tigers overcome Victor Martinez's season-ending knee injury and eventually return to the World Series.
They've had an up-and-down relationship in recent years. Max Scherzer's contract situation flared up a year and a half ago with an exchange of offers, then went quiet last winter before he signed with the Nationals.
As the Tigers look to rebound, Boras again looms. This time, though, it's more near the middle of the market than the top. His free-agent clients this winter include starters Wei-Yin Chen and Ian Kennedy. He's not as involved in a thin reliever market, though his clients include former Royals lefty Franklin Morales.
That didn't exactly make the Tigers a heavy topic for Boras as he addressed a swarm of media at the GM Meetings. But it was still a topic.
"I think that Mike Ilitch does things where it's not about reaching levels of spending. It's about how he builds a team and what he needs to do to build a team," Boras said. "That's what I think he's done."