After a few agonizing weeks in the baseball world, with only the Hall of Fame and Alex Rodriguez to talk about, Clayton Kershaw is the perfect antidote. Not even the crustiest Giants fan can look down upon the affable Texan’s new deal. Kershaw is the best and will be paid as such. If he opts out after five years, the Dodgers signed the best pitcher in baseball through his age-30 season for five years/$150 million. Which is sort of criminal, when you think about.
Kershaw’s contract is a great palate cleanser for all baseball heads to dig in on and let the juice run down their chin. From what I’ve seen and read, appreciation for teh contract is nearly unanimous for the deal. It’s a risk but not a significant one for team or player.
The first logical step after the praise chorus dies down is looking around to see who benefits next. Which boats float most in this rising tide. Looking ahead to the free agent class of 2014, we potentially see three big names – Jon Lester, James Shields, and David Price.
Max Scherzer now is in Verlanderland, James Shields in Greinkeville and Jon Lester in Hamelstown. And those prices might be light.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 15, 2014
Cute and/or bizarre as Passan’s comps might be, some fit better than others. Jon Lester as Cole Hamels? That one didn’t sit so well, even though Passan’s talking about potential contracts rather than potential output.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe sure seems like a guy who comparing pitchers, suggesting Lester might be in line for a Hamels-like deal if he hits free agency at the end of the year. Hamels was just 28 when he signed his six-year, $144 million contract with an option for a seventh season. Just following the structure for the back half of the deal (from age-30 onward, as Lester is entering his age-30 season) we’re talking about $22.5 million a year.
Which seems…steep, for Jon Lester. There isn’t a whole lot of similarity between Hamels and Lester over the last few seasons. Even at his best, Jon Lester only bested Hamels ERA once.
It isn’t that Jon Lester isn’t a good pitcher – he most certainly is. He is battle-tested in the playoffs and against the toughest competition. He’s a lifelong Red Sock and figures to stay that way. But let’s be real – Clayton Kershaw has nothing to do with that.
Even if we allow for some serious inflation, is there any way Lester even gets four years and $80 million? Considering what Anibal Sanchez received as a free agent or even what Mark Buehrle (closer than you think) got as a 32-year old free agent after the 2011 season.
The most important thing to remember is Clayton Kershaw is not a normal case. Baseball general managers aren’t about to lose their head and start throwing around record-breaking contracts for sturdy number two starters because the best pitcher in the game got one. They will throw around massive contracts because the game is flush with cash and the bulk of the cash they spend on baseball operations funnels towards the players.
This is why Jon Lester will get paid a bunch, not because of the exploits of a few superior hurlers.
We just never know
Ben Badler of Baseball America tweeted out the link to this awesome article on Clayton Kershaw from 2006, when the big Texan was a rising prospect at his leafy suburban Dallas high school.
It mentions how much more prospect shine existed on Kershaw’s high school teammates, starting with the now-famous tale of Kershaw and Matt Stafford playing football together, but moving on to mention two other prospects ahead of the lefty on most early lists – Jordan Walden and Shawn Tolleson. Which – yikes. It’s easy to see how it could end up that way, and Kershaw pulled ahead during his senior season to become a first round pick but so much changes so quickly with athletes that age.
It’s just so damn hard to project teenagers into big leaguers. Fast-forward to the 2006 draft in which Kershaw was taken sixth overall and, with the benefit of glorious hindsight, we see just how inexact a science the draft really is.
High school players are tougher to project and wash out at a much higher rate but five college pitchers (Hochevar is a University of Tennessee product) chosen ahead of Kershaw. The kind of thing that keeps scouting directors up at night, surely.
You just never know. There is just enough guesswork and speculation to drive a man to drink. Maybe just throw darts at the draft board next year, boys.
A team effort
Big winner today……me. I am blessed to catch best in the game for foreseeable future God willing. Congrats Kersh!
— AJ Ellis (@AJEllis17) January 15, 2014
A.J. Ellis has a reputation as one of the good guys in baseball, a reputation I will do nothing but enforce based on my brief interactions with the Dodgers’ catcher. Ellis was thoughtful, helpful, and generous with his time. The story wasn’t even about him, it was about his teammate Clayton Kershaw.
Yesterday, Ellis expressed his delight with his teammates windfall. Which is a pretty good look if you ask me. And consistent with what I know about A.J. Ellis.
You just never know, the sequel
Unanimous best player in baseball (taken 25th overall) hits rocket snared by the man who followed Trout as the best prospect in baseball (signed as free agent out of Curaçao at the age of 16). You just. Never. Know.