USA TODAY US Edition

MLB’s top free agents have same agent

- Bob Nightengal­e Columnist

HOUSTON – There might not be a soul with more at stake in this World Series.

But he’s not swinging a bat, throwing a ball or even managing a game.

He instead is watching from his Southern California home, insisting there is no rooting interest for either team.

But no matter who wins this World Series, with Game 6 on Tuesday between the Astros and the Nationals, he will be the biggest winner of all.

It’s super-agent Scott Boras. And he just so happens to represent the biggest stars in this World Series.

“I’ve had prominent players playing in the World Series before,” Boras tells USA TODAY Sports, “but nothing quite like this.”

The top position player eligible for free agency and in line for a payday over $250 million is third baseman Anthony Rendon.

He is represente­d by Boras.

The best pitcher eligible for free agency, and will almost certainly be provided the richest contract for a pitcher in history, perhaps even earning more than Rendon, is Astros starter Gerrit Cole.

He is represente­d by Boras. Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals’ starting pitcher in Game 6, has an optout clause and can declare free agency. He is represente­d by Boras.

“I think we’re about to make Scott richer than he already is,” Rendon said.

Boras represents nine players on the 40-man roster on both teams, including AL Championsh­ip Series MVP Jose Altuve of the Astros and 21-year-old sensation Juan Soto of the Nationals, and has had a major impact in these teams’ success.

And might have even a greater influence for their future.

If the Nationals are going to make a return trip to the World Series, they desperatel­y could use Rendon.

The Nats already made Rendon a seven-year offer for about $210 million before the playoffs.

Sorry, Boras says, not good enough. The Nats desperatel­y want Strasburg to stay and co-anchor the rotation with Max Scherzer, another Boras client. Strasburg has four years and $100 million remaining on his contract, with $40 million deferred without interest. They have three days after the World Series to extend or rework Strasburg’s contract, or he could opt out and test the free agent waters for the first time in his career.

“Stephen Strasburg has had an amazing season,” Boras says, “but he has yet to make that decision. I haven’t even talked to Stephen or (wife) Rachel about it. I haven’t even addressed it.

When the season ends, we will sit down and talk and see what he wants to do.”

And if Strasburg doesn’t want to opt out now, he can change his mind a year from now, Boras reminds everyone, with another opt-out after 2020.

“It’s a camel option,” he says, “there are two humps to it.”

The Astros would love to keep their prized pitching corps together for another World Series run.

Well, unless they’re ready to shell out at least $240 million, and perhaps as much as $275 million, Cole will be taking his talents elsewhere.

So, yes, Boras is going to be quite a popular man this winter, with a stable of free agents whose postseason performanc­es only enhanced their value.

Cole, who has lost only one start since May 22, continued his fabulous postseason run by dominating the Nats in Game 5 of the World Series with a three-hit outing over seven innings. He went 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in the postseason and saved the Astros’ season with a brilliant Game 5 performanc­e in the AL Division Series clincher against the Rays. He will finish first or second in Cy Young voting after going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts in 2121⁄3 innings during the regular season.

Rendon has put on a clinic in the postseason, hitting .308 with seven extra-base hits and nine RBI, while being a human highlight reel in the field.

“Everybody is calling me and telling me what a great baseball player he is,” Boras said. “I saw him play his freshman year at Rice. I know he was going to be a great baseball player.

“Now, everybody is understand­ing this guy is an MVP-type player. He hits for average. He hits home runs. He’s a great baserunner. His defense is unbelievab­le. And his baseball IQ is off the charts.

“What more could you want?” Strasburg went 18-6 with a 3.52 ERA and career-high 251 strikeouts during the regular season and has a 5-2 career postseason record and 1.34 ERA, with 64 strikeouts in 47 innings. He kept their season alive in Game 5 of the Division Series against the Dodgers and won Game 2 of the World Series.

“To be dominant in the postseason, to win eliminatio­n games,” Boras says, “frankly, that greatness just adds to your resume and makes you even more valuable.

“These guys that show they can do it, their pedigree is documented.”

In other words, their stock price is soaring through the roof.

Boras has a strangleho­ld on this year’s free agent market. He also represents starters Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, infielder Mike Moustakas and outfielder­s Nick Castellano­s and J.D. Martinez, if he opts out.

Yet for now he’s focusing his attention on his star attraction­s in the World Series, even though he insists he’s staying neutral.

Still, while he might have no public rooting interest, Boras is more closely aligned with the Nats than any other team in baseball.

When the Nationals had the first draft pick in the country in back-toback years, they selected Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper, each represente­d by Boras.

When Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nats and outfielder Jayson Werth was their first big free agent signing at $126 million in 2010, they were negotiated by Boras.

And when Harper rejected a 10-year, $300 million contract from the Nats, eventually signing for $330 million over 13 years with the Phillies, Boras pulled the strings.

Nats owner Ted Lerner’s relationsh­ip with Boras is legendary, and Boras and general manager Mike Rizzo are confidants.

“I’ve known Ted for a long time,” Boras says, “and Rizzo is a very, very adept baseball man and a great scout. He knows the character of players. He really gets it. And he’s not afraid to call us and ask about players in the draft.

“I still remember when they drafted Rendon. There were five teams that passed on him, and after they got him, I called Rizzo and said, ‘How did you just get the best pick in the draft?’ I couldn’t believe it.”

It was on Boras’ advice, he proudly says, why the Nationals were even able to land Strasburg and Harper with backto-back No. 1 picks in 2009 and 2010.

“I remember Ted was interested in signing Mark Teixeira (after the 2008 season), and I said, ‘You shouldn’t sign him,’ ” Boras said. “‘It doesn’t really work for him or you. It behooves you to do this slowly and not win so much. You want to take advantage of some unique players coming out in those drafts.’

“The Lerners looked at the big picture, it allowed them to build a core, and then signing Scherzer really developed some algorithms for Ted.”

It was no different than lending advice to the Astros when Jim Crane bought the franchise in 2011.

“When Jim became owner,” Boras says, “he flew to my office, sat down and said, ‘I want to build this thing right.’ ”

And now, here are the Nats and Astros, the last teams standing.

Just one will be holding the World Series trophy, but Boras, along with his clients, will be walking away with the riches.

 ?? GEOFF BURKE/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon is eligible to become a free agent shortly after the World Series ends this week.
GEOFF BURKE/USA TODAY SPORTS Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon is eligible to become a free agent shortly after the World Series ends this week.
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