Jon Lester Rumors

Scherzer, Lester, Shields And Career Pitch Counts

Agent Scott Boras has the prize of free agency in Max Scherzer, and Boras has taken to touting his client’s “pitching odometer.”  Boras explained to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, “[Scherzer] really has the [arm] of a 25 or 26 year old. This is like signing a 25 or 26-year-old pitcher.”

Perhaps reflecting what is found in Scherzer’s binder, Heyman cited the following stats:

“Did you know Scherzer, 30, has thrown 20,954 pitches, to 26,321 for Jon Lester and 29,461 for James Shields, the other top two free-agent pitchers in a top-heavy market containing three aces?”

Scherzer has thrown 8,507 fewer pitches than Shields and 5,367 fewer than Jon Lester. This difference may seem relevant, but in the end it will not matter. Instead, the focus should be on the trio’s birth date.

Context For Number Of Pitches Thrown

When looking at the total number of pitches, the zeros get in the way. For each game started, an ace will throw about 100 pitches. Most aces will start 30+ times a season, so each healthy ace-level pitcher can expect to throw at least 3,000 pitches in a season. The number could grow even higher with longer starts, more regular season starts and postseason games. Just using 3,000 pitches for a season and looking at each pitcher’s age, Boras’ difference can be explained by prorating the pitches thrown back to their age-29 season (Scherzer’s age at the end of last season).

Pitches prorated back to age-29 season
Scherzer: 20,954
Lester: 23,321
Shields: 17,461

The number of pitches thrown really just comes down to age. Scherzer’s arm had less mileage on it than Lester’s arm at the same age, but more than Shields. The difference of 8,500 pitches may seem like a ton, but for pitchers four years apart in age, the number is completely reasonable.

Pitches Thrown And Likelihood Of Next-Season DL Stint

Now, is there a magic number of pitches when a pitcher’s arm just quits being healthy? Is 25,000 pitches the point? 30,000? My study finds that no magic number exists. Actually, the opposite is true.

I looked at the career pitches thrown by pitchers from 2001 to 2012, then put the pitchers into 3,000-pitch groups and to find their chances of a DL stint next season. Here are the DL percentages for pitchers as they put more mileage on their arms.  (Note: 39% of all established pitchers will go on the DL at some point the next season.  (n) refers to the number of pitcher-seasons in the sample.)

# of pitches (n): DL rate, average # of DL days per pitcher
6000-8999 (674): 36%, 24
9000-11999 (470): 39%, 26
12000-14999 (324): 40%, 29
15000-17999 (225): 45%, 33
18000-20999 (179): 37%, 29
21000-23999 (111): 42%, 26
24000-26999 (99): 39%, 24
27000-29999 (88): 39%, 27
30000-32999 (71): 45%, 38
33000-35999 (47): 34%, 27
36000-38999 (28): 50%, 21
39000-41999 (26): 38%, 27
> 42000(79): 37%, 23

There are some increases and decreases, but generally the DL rate hovers around the expected 39%.

Here are the numbers grouped into 9,000-pitch blocks.

# of pitches (n): DL rate, average # of DL days per pitcher
6000-14999 (1468): 38%, 26
15000-23999 (515): 42%, 30
24000-32999 (258): 41%, 29
33000-41999 (101): 40%, 25
>42000 (79): 37%, 23

It may not seem intuitive that pitchers will have a smaller DL chance as they throw more, but they do. At 24,000 pitches, a pitcher has been productive and healthy enough to be in the league around eight seasons.  Besides just the number of DL stints, the time spent on the disabled list is just as important. The pitchers could go on the DL and stay there because of a major injury. If high-pitch pitchers were staying on the DL longer, the average number of days would be seen going up.  Instead, they decline.

Pitches Thrown And Expected Future Innings Pitched

The three pitchers in question — Scherzer, Lester, and Shields — are each looking for a multi-year deal. How many innings can teams expect out of these pitchers in the future? Looking at the pitches a pitcher has thrown in his MLB career from 2001 to 2009, here are the innings thrown in the next five seasons.

Pitches (n): IP
6000-8999: (468): 302
9000-11999: (364): 324
12000-14999: (249): 354
15000-17999: (176): 398
18000-20999: (129): 426
21000-23999 (86): 427
24000-26999 (81): 446
27000-29999 (68): 372
30000-32999 (45): 430
33000-35999 (32): 381
36000-38999 (17): 557
39000-41999 (18): 508
> 42000 (68): 476

And now the same data grouped into a few large groups.

Pitches (n): IP
6000-14999 (1081): 322
14000-23999 (391): 414
24000-32999 (194): 416
33000-41999 (67): 460
> 42000 (68): 750

Just because a pitcher has a ton of mileage on his arm doesn’t mean he is about to break down. He could continue to throw for years to come. The more pitches a pitcher has thrown, the better the chances he continues to throw. The three pitchers in question have passed the threshold of being healthy and good.

2015 DL Chances For Scherzer, Lester, Shields

Every pitcher (including these three) will eventually break down, we just don’t know when. An injury risk can be assigned to every pitcher. I have used a DL chance formula to determine the chance a pitcher will end up on the DL with accurate results. Using the formula, here their DL chances for 2015.

Name: Scherzer, Lester, Shields
Age: 29, 30, 33
GS (’12 to ’14): 98, 98, 101
DL Stints (’12 to ’14): 0, 0, 0
DL Chance: 34%, 35%, 38%

These three pitchers each have health (no recent DL stints) and a history of being able to make about 33 starts per season on their side. The only difference among them is age, which makes Scherzer the least likely to end up on the DL.

Boras continues to mention Scherzer’s pitching odometer as an advantage over Lester and Shields. However, the number of pitches thrown is not indicative of future injury. A high number shows the pitcher can hold up to the grind of being able to successfully throw for full seasons. The main issue between the three pitchers is age. Scherzer is four years younger than Shields. Scherzer’s body may still be able to hold up a bit better than the other pair, but they are still some of the healthiest pitchers in the league. The debate about the trio’s durability should begin and end with age.


AL Notes: Moss, Mariners, Lester, Headley, Rays, Twins

Brandon Moss could not help but become aware that the Athletics have made some notable additions that have a bearing on his status with the club, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Moss, who avoided the need for micro-fracture surgery on his hip and expects to be ready to go on something close to a normal schedule this spring, says he realizes that the additions of Billy Butler and Ike Davis could set up some other changes. “You never know; the front office likes to mix up,” said Moss. “I’m trying not to let anything surprise me, because I don’t want to be blindsided. Obviously, I love playing in Oakland, but when this happened, I knew it could mean someone else gets moved.”

Here’s more from the American League:

  • In addition to the four players noted yesterday, the Mariners are interested in Evan Gattis of the Braves, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Seattle is determined to come away with one of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Nelson Cruz, Yoenis Cespedes, and Gattis, per the report. The M’s made a competitive offer for Victor Martinez before he re-signed with the Tigers, Heyman adds.
  • Talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are not on any kind of timetable, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). Lester is still making the rounds and considering his alternatives, per Bradford.
  • The Yankees are willing to go to three years in a deal for third baseman Chase Headley, Heyman reports. But Headley, unsurprisingly, is out looking for longer, better offers. New York is unlikely to go further than three, Joel Sherman reported yesterday, and it seems that Headley is drawing sufficient interest to get a fourth year guaranteed.
  • The Rays have announced that bench coach Dave Martinez will pursue other opportunities with another organization. Martinez was not listed as a finalist to replace Joe Maddon in the big league dugout, making a separation seem all but inevitable.
  • After a wide search, the Twins have agreed bring on Neil Allen as the team’s pitching coach, along with Eddie Guardado as bullpen coach and Joe Vavra as the bench coach to new skipper Paul Molitor. Allen had been the Rays’ pitching coach at Triple-A Durham.

Red Sox Owner Willing To Exceed Luxury Tax Threshold In 2015

At today’s press conference to announce the signing of Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox owner John Henry told reporters, including WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, that his team is willing to exceed the $189MM luxury tax threshold in 2015. “The way it’€™s structured we can blow through one year,” Henry said. “Again for next year we have tremendous flexibility so we could go could through for one year and not overly effect us.”

Henry added that his previous comments about aversion to long-term contracts were overblown and stated, “You can’t win unless you engage in free agency.”  The Red Sox’ early actions this offseason have exemplified that line of thinking, as the team today announced the signing of Ramirez to a four-year, $88MM contract (with a vesting option for a fifth season) and Pablo Sandoval to a five-year $95MM contract. Additionally, they inked Koji Uehara to a two-year, $18MM pact before he even hit the open market.

Boston’s spending doesn’t seem the least bit likely to stop there, as both Henry expressed that he is hopeful of securing a reunion with Jon Lester, who is a well-known target of GM Ben Cherington. Boston is believed to be looking at to add at least two starting pitchers this season and has also been linked to trade target Cole Hamels and free agent James Shields, among others.

The flexibility to which Henry refers is significant; Mike Napoli ($16MM AAV), Shane Victorino ($13MM AAV), Edward Mujica ($4.75MM AAV) and Yoenis Cespedes ($9MM AAV) are all coming off the books following the upcoming season. As Speier examined in depth yesterday, the Red Sox figure to already be within $7-8MM of the $189MM threshold, and that’s without adding a pair of starters as well as perhaps a backup catcher and another bullpen arm. However, the team will also undoubtedly be offloading some significant salary in trades of its outfield surplus. Cespedes has been heavily rumored as a likely trade candidate, and any of Victorino, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava could theoretically be moved as well.



Jon Lester Rumors: Tuesday

Yesterday, we took a look at some news and rumors on free agent Jon Lester and the connection of his market to the trade market for Cole Hamels. As things continue to develop for Lester, here’s the latest …

  • Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com hears that the Cubs are very much in on Lester still. The Cubs have been on top of the situation from the beginning, Levine writes, and while his source wouldn’t wager a guess as to where Lester will sign, the source did indicate that an annual salary of $25MM or more.

Earlier Updates

  • The Cubs have made Lester an offer of over $135MM and are willing to go to six years on a deal, according to a report from David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com (audio and written version).
  • Kaplan also reports that the Giants‘ interest in Lester is real and significant. The lefty is scheduled for a visit to San Francisco next week, per ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Twitter links).
  • Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters, including Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, that he is “confident that we’re making every attempt internally here and the hope would be to get [Lester] back here.” But things could still take some time to shake out, with Farrell adding that he expects to “get a better read on that in the coming weeks.”

Latest On Jon Lester And Cole Hamels

Earlier today we heard that the Giants have shown interest in Jon Lester, and that interest may now increase with Pablo Sandoval reportedly set to join the Red Sox. San Francisco would make another entrant in a Lester race that has begun to take clearer shape over the past week or so. And, of course, the connection to the Phillies‘ trade market for Cole Hamels cannot be ignored, with several reports suggesting that the two southpaws’ fates are intertwined.

Here are today’s Lester and Hamels rumors…

  • Two NL GMs told Peter Gammons over the weekend that Lester is nearing a deal with the Red Sox. However, Gammons writes that the info doesn’t appear to be accurate at this time, as Lester is set to meet with the Cardinals sometime next week. According to Gammons, Lester might wish to have a deal in place in advance of the Winter Meetings, which begin Dec. 7 in San Diego. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford echoes that there’s nothing close between the Red Sox and Lester at this time (Twitter link).
  • Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox and Lester are still “very much engaged” and it does appear possible for the Sox to add Lester, Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez (who agreed to a four-year, $88MM pact with Boston earlier today).
  • The Red Sox and Cubs are interested in Hamels, and both could “jump” at the chance to acquire him if they miss on Lester, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Boston has had the “most serious talks” with Philadelphia, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), with Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeting that the Phils are confident in striking a deal if Lester does not return to his former club.
  • The Dodgers are also in on Hamels, according to a tweet from Nightengale. Los Angeles represents a potentially powerful new entrant to that market, of course, and could shake up the pursuit if it decides to commit significant resources to adding a third stellar lefty to its rotation.

Giants Have Shown Interest In Jon Lester

It appears likely — though not yet 100 percent certain — that Giants mainstay Pablo Sandoval is on his way to the Red Sox, and the Giants may look to go a different route recouping the lost value. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spoke to one person with knowledge of the team’s thinking who believed the loss of Sandoval could put San Francisco in play for Jon Lester, and Rosenthal then confirmed with a source that the Giants have indeed shown interest in Lester (Twitter links).

Earlier this morning, reports indicated that Sandoval had agreed to a five-year pact with the Red Sox, but his agents have since publicly stated that no agreement is in place with Boston or any other club at this point. Sandoval will make his decision today, his agent told WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, so we’ll have some closure in the near future.

If the union with Boston does indeed to come to fruition, Lester makes for a logical, albeit more expensive target for Giants GM Brian Sabean (Boston has reportedly already offered Lester $110-120MM over six years). The Giants have little rotation certainty, despite coming off a 2014 World Series victory. Madison Bumgarner is an unquestioned ace, but Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents. Matt Cain will be returning from elbow surgery. Tim Hudson will be 40 next July, and Tim Lincecum has proven to be unreliable at this stage of his career. Lester could likely be penciled in for 200+ innings and provide some much-needed stability.

Of course, such a pursuit does leave the Giants thin at third base and on the lookout for offense. One other alternative, Rosenthal tweets, would be to pursue Chase Headley. He characterizes a Headley pursuit as “likely” for San Francisco, should Sandoval depart. The switch-hitting Headley would become the prize of the free agent market at third base, and the Giants would no doubt have competition for his services. The Yankees are said to very much want Headley back, but any club that showed interest in Sandoval could logically have some interest in Headley as well. That would include the Blue Jays and White Sox, although to this point, those matches are speculative on my behalf, as there’s yet to be a firm connection to Headley for either club.


Red Sox “Trying Hard” To Sign Ramirez, Sandoval

The Red Sox are “trying hard” to sign both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. An industry source tells WEEI.com’s Alex Speier the Red Sox are in advanced conversations with Ramirez and a deal “could come together quickly” adding the potential for an agreement is real.

Heyman notes the Red Sox have remained in contact with Ramirez since the recent GM meetings in Phoenix and suggestions are those talks have grown more serious in recent days. Heyman writes it’s unclear what position Ramirez, who has also been linked to the Mariners and Astros, might play if he signs with Boston, where he started his career, but stresses the Red Sox are in play for both Ramirez and Sandoval. Speier theorizes the Red Sox would play Sandoval at third base and shift Ramirez to left field increasing the possibility of a Yoenis Cespedes trade.

The Red Sox held a second meeting with Sandoval this week, per MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, and have a five-year, $95MM offer on the table. Yesterday, it was reported the Red Sox, Giants, and the Padres are the finalists for Sandoval’s services.

The Red Sox could make it a triple play in free agency as they are also in talks with Jon Lester. Boston has reportedly made Lester a six-year offer worth between $110-120MM. The left-hander has met with the Red Sox, Cubs, and Braves this past week and will meet with two more teams this week and has been linked to the Cardinals, as well.


Cafardo On Fowler, Astros, Hammel, Miley

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe asked about a dozen GMs in Phoenix about the Yankees’ situation and not one of them thought the Bombers would stay away from a major signing.  For all the talk about the Cubs being a major player for Jon Lester, the Red Sox are still fearful that it’ll be the Yankees that swoop in and grab him.  More from today’s column..

  • Both center fielder Dexter Fowler and catcher Jason Castro are available in a deal and the Astros wouldn’t mind dealing for bullpen help.   Fowler had a decent year and enjoyed more success as a right-handed hitter.  The 28-year-old (29 by Opening Day) slashed .327/.419/.467 as a right-handed hitter but hit just .260/.361/.376 from the other side of the plate.  Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has heard that the asking price is high on Castro and that there aren’t any contract talks currently taking place between the two sides.
  • Jason Hammel’s agent, Alan Nero, told Cafardo that teams have called on his client but no great advancements have been made on a contract.  Nero figures the secondary pitching market may take a while to develop.
  • Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley has become a popular trade target of a few teams, and while Arizona will listen, it will take a haul to get him.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross wonders whether his status with the Red Sox hinges on whether they sign Jon Lester.  Lester and Ross had a great run together in 2013 and the catcher tells Cafardo that the two will get together after Thanksgiving.  Ross says that he’s begun to field interest from other teams in the interim.
  • The Phillies will shop Carlos Ruiz and while plenty of teams need catchers, his age (35) and his contract will be a problem.  Ruiz has two years left on his deal at $8.5MM per year plus a $4.5MM option for 2017 that can bought out for $500K.

Free Agent Notes: Robertson, Lester, Hunter, Scherzer

While Andrew Miller is said to have multiple three-year offers in hand already, the other top reliever on this year’s market, David Robertson, just may end up finding someone to meet his reported asking price of “Jonathan Papelbon money.” Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com spoke with four executives, each of whom believed that Robertson would receive his desired four years and at least come close to Papelbon’s average annual salary. An NL exec said he thought Robertson would meet his goal, while an AL exec said that though his first instinct was “no,” after seeing how the market has played out early on, he’s changed his thinking. A second NL exec and an AL scout said they could see at least four years and $40MM, with the scout saying it could go higher, because it only takes one team to push up that value.

Here’s more on some of the top free agents of the offseason…

  • Jon Lester will meet with at least two more teams next week, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Lester met with the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves this week. The Sox reportedly made a six-year offer in the $110-120MM range and are willing to negotiate further. The Braves reportedly have yet to extend a formal offer.
  • The Twins have a “real shot” to sign Torii Hunter, tweets La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN hears the same (Twitter link), adding that the pitch to Hunter from manager Paul Molitor is that Hunter can come back to Minnesota and provide the same type of mentoring to their young players that Molitor and the late Kirby Puckett provided Hunter when he was a minor leaguer. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that Hunter would be taking a significant paycut to return to Minnesota, however.
  • Elsewhere in the Hunter market, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Orioles and Giants are keeping Hunter as a back-burner option in case their initial free agent pursuits don’t play out as they hope (Twitter links). In addition to those two teams, the Twins and the Royals, Crasnick hears that the Mariners have kicked the tires on Hunter.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden today and said that while he couldn’t rule out the return of ace Max Scherzer, he feels the chances were better last spring (Twitter link). The Tigers, of course, made Scherzer a six-year, $144MM extension offer, which he rejected.

NL East Links: Lester, Stanton, Niese, Mets

Though the Braves met with Jon Lester‘s camp yesterday, the team did not make a formal offer to the free agent lefty, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Beyond that, president of baseball operations John Hart told ESPN’s Jayson Stark that the possibility of Lester signing in Atlanta is a “long shot,” but added that he is keeping all doors open (Twitter link).

Here’s more from the NL East…

  • In an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria says that the Giancarlo Stanton extension is only the beginning of his team’s offseason additions. Loria candidly discusses the team’s 2012 fire sale, stating that he knew he was going to get killed for it in the media but simply didn’t feel the mix of players the club had acquired was going to work. Loria adds that he’s not concerned with what other owners think of the Stanton extension and is putting behind him the days of fire sales as he looks to make winning a “part of the tradition of this baseball club.” Loria says he feels that his team will be competitive next season and that come September, the Marlins will not only be competitive, but contending. Nightengale backs up previous reports that the Marlins have indeed made an offer to Adam LaRoche.
  • Jon Niese‘s trade value simply isn’t what it used to be, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears, despite what the Mets consider to be a team-friendly contract. Niese is owed $7MM in 2015 and $9MM in 2016 with a pair of club options valued at $10MM and $11MM. However, one executive from a somewhat interested team told Martino, “I think they underestimate the impact his injuries have had on perception. It’s not a team-friendly contract if he is on the DL.” Niese did toss 187 innings in 2014, but he’s had shoulder and elbow issues over the past two years.
  • The Mets are interested in re-signing left-hander Dana Eveland and right-hander Buddy Carlyle, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The Mets cut each reliever loose to avoid arbitration increases but have interest in each journeyman on a lower-cost deal. Both were effective in 2014, though Eveland was sidelined for the final few weeks of the season with an elbow injury.
  • Rubin also hears that the Mets will wait out some free agent options at shortstop and could take action later in the offseason if players on whom their currently lukewarm drop their asking prices (Twitter links). He also hears that the Mets would be willing to forfeit their second-round pick to add another qualifying offer free agent if the player was stuck without a contract come January. Of course, the Mets already gave up their first-round pick to sign Michael Cuddyer.