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.





What do we want from our athletes?  What is – or should be – their driving force?  They play for the love of . . . what, exactly?

From a young age we are taught – we are told – it is “all about the rings”.  I remember playing intramurals in college, where it was “all about the cotton” (championship t-shirts, that is).  But is that what it’s all about?

Should athletes play for rings?  Or should they play “for the love of the game”?  Or, knowing that they have very short shelf-lives, should they try to make as much money as possible, and let everything else be a secondary consideration?

These questions popped into my mind during some crazy Hot Stove action before the New Year.  As part of the Dee Gordon trade, the Dodgers sent Dan Haren to the Marlins.  Haren had previously told the Dodgers, who in turn informed the Marlins, that he would rather retire than be paid $10M to spend another 8 months away from his family.  Noble or knuckleheaded?  Too rich or too rude?  (As a side note, the Dodgers included the entire $10M salary as part of the deal, which the Marlins get to keep, gratis, if Haren retires.)

In 2011 – after an 86-win season in which they finished 10 games out of first place – Jered Weaver signed a discounted deal with the Angels to stay in his hometown.  Here is what he said at the time (it should be noted that he signed this deal over the objection of Scott Boras):

“If $85 (million) is not enough to take care of my family and other generations of families then I’m pretty stupid, but how much money do you really need in life?  I’ve never played this game for the money.  I played it for the love and the competitive part of it.  It just so happens that baseball’s going to be taking care of me for the rest of my life.”

Do we think less of him as an athlete because of this?  Or do we applaud his choice?

Albert Pujols could have retired the second greatest Cardinal of all time – a living legend in St. Louis.  Instead, he turned his back on the only professional organization he had ever played for and went for Arte Moreno’s riches (in actuality, he left St. Louis for a mere $20M more).  Good guy or bad?


My personal bee-in-the-bonnet: Johnny Damon, the leader of the Idiots who brought Boston its first World Series title in 86 years, the guy who would never have had to pay for another meal in Boston, took an additional $12M over 4 years to play for the hated Yankees (the Red Sox offered 4/$40M, the Yankees 4/$52M).  I never understood why he would do this.  But maybe he loved the City of New York and always wanted to live there; maybe his wife was a Broadway aficionado who cajoled him into moving; maybe he was sick of the Back Bay and lobstah rolls; and maybe money was the only factor.  (Side note: Damon was represented by Scott Boras, so you do the literal math).  I don’t think we will ever know.  But we can still speculate . . . and stew.


Back in 2003, Karl Malone (one of the two mainstays of the entire Jazz franchise) left Utah after 18 seasons to chase a ring with the Lakers.  A true professional? Or a disloyal backstabber?

Blog_Karl_Malone_Jazz Blog_Karl_Malone_Laker

We can all recount – from memory – the greats of the games who have never tasted the championship champagne.  Quick, off the top of your head, name five (mine below).  We always discuss these players in solemn tones, as if their careers ultimately lack something.  But do they?  Are their careers any less because they have never stood on the podium or visited the White House?  Maybe they were perfectly content playing for the love of the game and all of the riches (even if not maximized) that came with it.

How do we feel about these guys?  What is it that we want?  Play for rings, riches, region?

It’s easy to stand on mount pious and say what we would do.  But we don’t live in their world.  Bud Fox once asked Gordon Gekko “How many yachts can you jet ski behind?  How much is enough?” (Editor’s note: this line has always bothered me as, from my pauper’s viewpoint, I don’t believe you can actually jet ski behind a yacht.  See  1:46 mark below.)

But we, as normal people, cannot fathom how people calculate untold riches.  $74M may mean the same to us as $129M – at some point you cannot keep track.  But for Carmelo Anthony, based solely on dollars, that was the decision he had to make last summer when he re-signed with the Knicks.  He would have given up $55M to sign with the Bulls.  Add to that the fact that his wife loves living in New York and he has an 8-year old son who ostensibly goes to school and has friends.  And yet, Anthony was crushed by the basketball cognoscenti for putting money ahead of championships.  Is that fair?  Does anyone, with the exception of other athletes, have standing to opine on this topic?

Last Spring, Jon Lester – much to the chagrin of his agents, I am sure – told the Red Sox he would take a hometown discount to stay in Boston (despite the fact that he is from Atlanta).  The Red Sox tried to take advantage of this loyalty and low-balled him – offering him approximately 2/3 of what he eventually got (original Red Sox offer: 4/$70M; final deal with Cubs: 6/$155M).  With the Red Sox he had a chance to play for rings; he would have been able to stay home (in Newton); he would have shown loyalty.  But does anyone blame him for taking Theo Epstein’s money?

One last thought/question: What will we make of the eventual contract Max Scherzer signs?  The Tigers offered him 6/$144M last Spring and he turned it down.  Although he is not “from” Detroit (he is from the St. Louis area), he has lived and pitched in Detroit for 5 years.  He has no kids; just a wife who is active in the Detroit community.  The Tigers are a perennial contender.  How much more would another team have to offer, and who would that team have to be, to entice Scherzer make a move?  Depending on which team’s hat Max dons next month, we may know a whole lot more about him: is he playing for rings, riches, or region?  We already know – unlike that other Tigers’ pitcher – it isn’t just for love of the game.


I truly don’t know the answer, as I am not even sure I can comprehend the question.  But, now that I have spent a minute contemplating the issue, I know I will think twice before I castigate another athlete for making a decision mere mortals cannot possibly grasp.

Last Note: The first pitchers and catchers report 6 weeks from tomorrow.




  • Ted Williams
  • Ernie Banks
  • Dan Marino
  • Charles Barkley
  • Karl Malone