Olney: What agent Scott Boras will say — and what it means

Once during every winter meetings, agent Scott Boras descends from his suite to answer media questions about his clients or some larger issue hovering over baseball. At least that’s the billing this session is given.

But really, it’s a performance, with some lines seemingly prepared and practiced, perhaps even laundered through some Boras Corp office focus group, or ad-libbed. You have to pick through a lot of the words and translate them to find the fragments of truth and substance. In fairness to Boras, a lot of baseball executives and players speak similar dialects of this opaque offseason language, albeit in a little less grandiose manner than the agent who represents Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and others.

Some of the phrases that need decoding this time of year:

1. “There are ___ (fill in the blank with a number between 1 and 30) teams interested in ____ (fill in the blank with a player’s name, according to a source.”

This is a common refrain used by agents to create the specter of a fervor of interest, mostly for the benefit of what could be anxious family members of the player in question. That the agent is the source is transparent to everyone in the industry, because the agent is the only person in position to know, unimpeachably, how many teams have actually expressed interest in a given player.

And, of course, the number of teams with interest is mostly meaningless because a lot of teams have varying degrees of interest — and some of it is in passing. During a meeting between an agent and a team, the two sides could quickly rattle through a list of clients — “Sure, I could have interest” — before focusing on the fourth quarter of the bowl game played on the big screen.

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