January 24, 2015 0 By Dan Freedman


So now we know.   Maybe.   Sort of.

Did Max Scherzer sign the second richest pitching contract in history for the love of money or to win a ring?   Or both?  One thing we do know, another team had to offer $66M more than Detroit to make him change teams.  (Or did they?  See below.)

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.   What matters is that Scherzer has aligned himself with a Murderer’s Row of a starting rotation that may very well lead to a World Series championship next October.

Blog_Fister Blog_Gio MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs  Blog_ZimmermanBlog_Scherzer

Now, let’s get wonky.   If you don’t like math or minutiae, stop reading and clicking now.

Scott Boras, the dark lord of baseball agents, was able to put yet another player on the Nationals.  If you are scoring at home (or if you are alone (-K.O.)), that makes 7 players (out of 25) on the Nats’ roster represented by Boras.  Fine, that all makes sense.

But if you are Scott Boras, and you and your client turned down $144M last year, and you watched arguably your biggest agenting rival (the Levinson Brothers) sign Jon Lester to a $155M deal, and you know Clayton Kershaw got $215M last year, how do you compete?  Well, you use a little misdirection.

If you are so inclined, the link below will walk you through the “true value” of Scherzer’s deal (roughly $170M/7).  But, suffice it to say, the $210M number that has been reported doesn’t truly/accurately reflect the value of Scherzer’s contract.  Three Card Monty it is not; but true and accurate it ain’t either.

The structure of the deal is as follows:

  • $10M this year
  • $15M in each of 2016, 2017, 2018
  • $35M in each of 2019, 2020, 2021 (all deferred and paid over the ensuing 7 years)
  • $50M signing bonus spread over the life of the contract

Question #1 for all you labor lawyers out there:  How does Scherzer work for free from 2019-2021?  Doesn’t that violate some law?

Question #2 for math majors and accountants:  How is it a “signing bonus” if it is spread over the life of the contract?  (Note: I had this same question with respect to Jon Lester’s $30M “signing bonus” paid over the life of his contract.)

Question #3 for Boras and Mike Rizzo:  Does the “life of the contract” mean the 7 years of service or the 14 total years of payment?

I guess these are all high-class questions that don’t really matter to anyone other than business managers and the IRS.  But, dammit, I want to know!!

As I was discussing with a friend earlier this week, this deal harkens back to Bobby Bonilla’s renegotiated contract with the Mets from 2000.  In case you don’t regularly click on Cot’s Baseball Contracts (and you really should), here are the broad strokes:

In 2000, Bonilla was an aging, 36-year old, ex-slugger, to whom the Mets still owed $5.9M.  The Mets wanted to release Bonilla, and not pay him.  Shockingly, Bonilla was okay with that concept.  In return, he agreed to defer the money, with interest, as an annuity.  Starting on July 1, 2011, and continuing every July 1st for the next 24 years, the Mets cut Bonilla a check for slightly less than $1.2M.  If you do the math, Bonilla traded $5.9M in 2000 for $29.8M over what is essentially the rest of his life.  In short, Bonilla gets $1.2M/year for 25 years.

Now, based on everything I have read about Scherzer’s deal (way too much, to be sure), we can do the following math:

At the end of Scherzer’s 7 years of service to the Nationals (or any other team he is traded to, as he does not have a no-trade clause), after playing 14 years in the Majors and earning roughly $135M, Max will be paid $1.2/month every month, for 7 years.  Take that, Bobby Bo.

The best part of all of this: regardless of annual salary or the years or the amount of the deferral, Scherzer, and all other pitchers, report to Spring Training in 27 days.