SAN DIEGO - What kind of world are we living in that the Cubs can outspend the Red Sox for Jon Lester, but the Yankees supposedly won't get into a bidding war with the Tigers over Max Scherzer?
Not one that Scott Boras wants any part of, that's for sure.
The day after Lester had agreed to a six-year, $155-million contract with the Cubs, Boras held court in the hotel lobby of these winter meetings and told everyone how valuable Scherzer is.
Boras didn't get into specific numbers. But when someone asked how Scherzer's price tag compared to Clayton Kershaw's record seven-year, $215-million deal, Boras made it sound like that might be a good jumping off point for negotiations.
"Certainly if you put a performance like Kershaw's into a free-agent market, you're going to get a much, much different calibration of value," Boras said. "I'm not sure Kershaw is relevant because he wasn't a free agent."
Only Boras could make us feel sympathy for Kershaw because he had the misfortune of being under the Dodgers' control when getting all that cash. Boras has no such restrictions with Scherzer, who the agent said turned down a seven-year, $160-million offer from the Tigers earlier this year.
That gives us an idea of where the Scherzer sweepstakes could be headed. And if Boras has his way, it will make the Lester derby look like a bake sale. Which is what we all expected.
Boras does this every winter, when we start by mocking his demands, then wind up marveling at his ability to get every last dime -- dwarfing projections. The only thing that surprises us this time around is the Yankees' apparent willingness to sit on the sideline.
We'll see how long they stay there. The Yankees need another starting pitcher. Badly. Preferably an innings-eating, front-of-the-rotation type. Despite Brian Cashman's poker face at these winter meetings, Joe Girardi said as much during his brief drop-in at the Hyatt. Shane Greene was the only member of the rotation without a lingering health concern and he's gone, traded to the Tigers in the three-team trade that brought DiDi Gregorius to the Bronx.
Based on what we saw in a half-season from Brandon McCarthy, he could have filled that role, but late last night he appeared close to agreeing on a four-year, $48-million deal with the Dodgers. That's a further indication of how costly pitching has become recently.
Look at what happened with Lester. The Red Sox first tried to lowball him last spring with a $70-million offer after hearing Lester say he'd take a discount to remain in Boston. But once he made it to the open market, Lester got more than twice that, and was able to thumb his nose at the Sox en route to Chicago. The Giants apparently were ready to give Lester closer to $170 million before he decided to choose between the two teams he had strong connections to.
"I think the Cubs got a great deal," Boras said. "He's a really, really impactful player and a dominant pitcher."
Lester has two World Series rings, but Scherzer has a Cy Young and nearly 300 fewer innings of mileage on his right arm. The Tigers need him back, especially with Justin Verlander looking vulnerable, but he'd also be perfect for the Bronx. Boras said he's already started meeting with owners in San Diego -- he declined to mention who -- and we still believe the Yankees will get involved at some point.They've shown they can't help themselves. A year ago, after the Yankees let Robinson Cano walk, Boras got them to give Jacoby Ellsbury a seven-year, $153-million deal in a matter of days. Seemingly out of nowhere, after the Red Sox had passed, without any other teams in the bidding.
The Yankees are more concerned now about their rotation, and Boras can be awfully persuasive for a team with a worrisome void to fill. Not to mention money to burn.
"Max is a Peyton Manning No. 1 kind of guy," Boras said. "He's always on the information train to improve himself, to evaluate his market. He offers a team so much because he's durable, he's fresh, he's gifted, he's getting better and he's been tested. This is a rare opportunity for a team."
Along with a lucrative one for Scherzer -- and Boras.