MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes rated three starters at the top of this year’s free agent class, as did many other observers: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. There was never much debate as to which of that trio was “best” or would earn the most money, but plenty of ink was spilled on the question of which would deliver the best value.
Those three are now all signed to deals that fall largely within the range of expectations, but which come with considerations impacting their respective value. And, of course, we now know which teams those hurlers will pitch for, allowing consideration of fit.
So, all said, which signing was the wisest? Here are the affirmative arguments for each:
Max Scherzer, Nationals (seven years, $210MM): There is little question that Scherzer was the best player available, and he upgrades an already-excellent Nats’ rotation while also effectively building out the team’s depth at the position — now and in the future. And here’s the key point that has flown under the radar: when the deal’s whopping $210MM price tag is reduced to net present value, it is less than 10% more costly than the Lester contract.
Jon Lester, Cubs (six years, $155MM plus option): Raise your hand if you predicted this signing? Actually, wait, raise your hand if you didn’t. Lester makes a perfect fit for the Cubs in so many ways. He is a workhorse, clubhouse rock who is coming off his best season as a professional. Lester can be expected to front the rotation now and provide a stabilizing force over the life of his deal, which gives the team control over a seventh year without guaranteeing it.
James Shields, Padres (four years, $75MM plus option): Not only did San Diego manage to get Shields for four years, instead of five, it did so while promising far less than the nine-figure deal that many thought possible or even probable. Shields may be the oldest of this group, but he is not promised any money past his age-36 season, same as the rest. He has been outstanding and durable, and there’s an argument to be made that the Friars got the steal of the offseason.