Super-agent Scott Boras is never exactly who he believes he is – a de facto commissioner of baseball – nor exactly what others believe him to be – such as the shadow head of the MLB Players’ Association.
But the 69-year-old lion is perhaps without peer when it comes to a working knowledge of Major League Baseball, including among those in the league and individual front offices. Know your enemy – it’s why he’s almost always able to extract top dollar for his clients.
So when Boras, in a freewheeling 55-minute chat with the news media at the general managers’ meetings – not be confused with his Christmas tree-adjacent winter meetings sesh in December – unhesitatingly stated that 17 major league teams are trying to compete in 2022, it did not come from an impetuous and poorly-considered place. (His puns, on the other hand …)
Naturally, the winter to come – and the accompanying collective bargaining agreement war – will tell the full story of who’s pushing their chips in and who’s folding for 2022. Yet there’s no reason we can’t get ahead of it and let you know who’s for real, and who’s likelier to pocket their revenues.
With that, a look at Boras’ projected Sweet Seventeen – and the 13 teams who will somehow sleep at night knowing they didn’t do all they could to win now:
DODGERS: The only question is how many, if any, of their high-profile free agents they’ll retain.
BRAVES: Even if they were due a teardown after winning it all, GM Alex Anthopoulos, like a golfer winning a major, has earned a five-year exemption based solely on his 2021 behavior.
CARDINALS: Nolan Arenado is back, Max Scherzer is available and St. Louis’ front office needs to prove it was manager Mike Shildt holding them back, not their own inadequacies.
BLUE JAYS: MVP production from Vlad Guerrero Jr. for a relative song. This is a time to make hay, even if it means top dollar to retain both Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray.
Almost full throttle
ASTROS: If they were truly going for it, Carlos Correa would be a priority and not an awkward and never-ending slow dance. Still, they have the funds to rebuild around high-end starters and a Kyle Tucker-Alex Bregman-Yordan Alvarez core.
RED SOX: Making it to Game 6 of the ALCS is a good way for Chaim Bloom to shake the tag of “guy who traded Mookie Betts.” A more aggressive winter likely in the offing.
GIANTS: Time for Farhan Zaidi to take a page from old pal Andrew Friedman in L.A.: “If you’re always rational about every free agent, you will finish third on every free agent.”
BREWERS: Never one to burn every penny, this is about as high as Milwaukee’s “win curve” may bend, what with Cy Young-caliber starters Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff still affordable and dominant.
YANKEES: Ducking under the luxury tax means GM Brian Cashman gets a cookie. Perhaps he’ll be able to field a reputable squad up the middle of the field.
PHILLIES: One of these years the Phillies won’t be able to afford their annual luxury item. This doesn’t appear to be that year.
WHITE SOX: Barely need to lift a finger to be prohibitive favorites in the AL Central.
PADRES: What if it turned out “winning the offseason” meant hiring a trusty dugout steward and not making galaxy-brained trades?
Playoffs? Sure, whatever, man
TIGERS: Such a chic postseason pick already that they’ll be old news by February.
CUBS: The fans already spoke with their pocketbooks, showing up barely 20,000 strong to Wrigley Field after the July purge of The 2016 Boys. After their shameful behavior in 2021, the Cubs need to at least create the impression they care, even if it means finishing third in the Central.
METS: They have want and they have resources but are currently fighting a competence deficit. We’ll find out soon enough if that’s a top-down problem.
ANGELS: This winter, the role of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown will be played by Max Scherzer and Robbie Ray.
MARINERS: Like clockwork, a once-every-three-years surprise run propels GM Jerry Dipoto to a contract extension. Do they truly want to take advantage of the Astros and A’s small to moderate retreats? We’ll see.
The unlucky 13
ATHLETICS: A new ballpark can’t deodorize this ownership group’s disdain for its fans and players.
RAYS: They may prove us wrong for an umpteenth time, but also, with Tyler Glasnow mending and a wave of young starters still cutting their teeth, this feels like a gap year at Neander U.
NATIONALS: Their last re-tool was two whole presidential administrations ago. Shouldn’t be as ugly as some, but the pain won’t abate anytime soon.
TWINS: Bad combo: Veteran lineup with three players in their walk years paired with an incomplete pitching staff that free agency can’t properly fortify.
MARLINS: Doing so much of this The Right Way, but also wasting a Cy Young talent in Sandy Alcantara by providing zero offense for him.
ROYALS: A slew of stud pitchers have touched K.C. – with franchise shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. soon to follow – but at some point, high-end veteran arms will be needed to calm the waters.
RANGERS: Phase II – acquiring players your fans have possibly heard of – is about to commence. Winning is still a ways off.
REDS: “We’ll try for two years, and then pack it in!” is not a business plan, nor a plan to compete. It’s just lunacy.
GUARDIANS: You’d think a thorough rebrand might be high time to lay out some assets for reinforcements. Think again.
ROCKIES: Front office has upgraded from Spiteful Disdain to Potential Competence.
ORIOLES: Adley Rutschman will finally arrive, but he can’t pitch to himself.
PIRATES: An earnest rebuild is underway, but like all before it, the success will be in spite of penurious ownership.
DIAMONDBACKS: Probably going to get worse before it gets better.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB: Scott Boras says 17 teams will try to win in 2022. Here they are