After multiple days of rampant speculation, free agent left-handed pitcher Jon Lester agreed to a six year, $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. The deal also has a vesting option for a seventh season at $15 million, bringing the potential total value of the contract to $170 million. Lester's negotiations had been the talk of the Winter Meetings, and his deal is surely going to impact those of other pitchers available on the free agent market.
Of any pitcher, Max Scherzer's value might be most impacted by Lester's signing. For one, it sets a bar for him and agent Scott Boras. They will now be able to point at Lester's $155 million price tag and say "Pay me more." Of course, this was already a given, as Scherzer and Boras are reportedly asking for over $200 million. What first seemed like insanity is now looking...well, still insane, but at least somewhat plausible.
Without the vesting option, Lester's contract will pay him an average of $25.8 million per season. This will also be seen as a starting point for Scherzer and Boras. The average annual value of Scherzer's deal probably won't go too much higher, and could actually dip below Lester's if Scherzer receives a guaranteed seventh year. A $200 million contract over seven years would pay Scherzer $28.6 million per year, while a $180 million contract would sit just below Lester's average annual value.
A $20 million gap is significant, though. Jon Lester wasn't willing to give up that money to go back to Boston -- the Red Sox only offered him a reported $135 million -- and Scherzer seems even less likely to take a hometown discount.
So what dollar amount should we expect for Scherzer? Fox Sports' Jon Morosi tweeted last night that Scherzer could earn up to 15 percent more money than Lester, which would put his value at just under $180 million. I don't know if a team will pay Scherzer that much money over six years, and Scherzer and Boras will push for a guaranteed seventh season.
Back in January, I tried to predict Scherzer's future value based on his previous WAR totals. My estimate? An average annual value of $26.3 million per season. That would total up to a six year deal of $158 million, or a seven year deal worth $184 million. Will he get that much? That is anyone's guess. But if the Tigers are involved, I sure hope their offer sits at the lower end of the spectrum.