The Washington Nationals won the Max Scherzer sweepstakes, reportedly agreeing to a deal worth $210 million over 7 seasons.
Source: Scherzer deal with #Nationals is seven years, $210M with half deferred. He will receive $15M per year for 14 years.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 19, 2015
The 30-year-old former Tigers ace is officially off the market, not that the Red Sox ever had much of a chance of landing the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner.
That leaves James Shields as the biggest fish left in free agency, with the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo identifying the Giants, Red Sox, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Yankees as teams waiting for the price to drop on Shields before initiating negotiations.
If the Red Sox hope to land a true number one starter to replace Jon Lester, they might have to make another trade. Boston added Wade Miley and Rick Porcello via trade earlier this offseason.
Cole Hamels has been the name most frequently brought up to replace Lester, which makes sense given his standing as one of baseball’s best left-handed pitchers. The Nationals now have a glut of starting pitching, however, and the Red Sox would be wise to inquire about the availability of a few of Washington’s arms.
Stephen Strasburg is likely a pipe dream, and Gio Gonzalez is locked up at a reasonable price through 2018. But Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann are both free agents after the 2015 season, and Washington might not have the budget to sign either of them.
Zimmermann is slated to make over $16 million this season and has been dangled in trade talks all offseason by the Nationals. He turns just 29 years old in May and has compiled 4 straight seasons of sub-3.25 ERA baseball.
Fister posted an impressive 2.41 ERA in 25 starts last season for the Nationals, and is also appealing due to his success in the American League over 5 seasons in Seattle and Detroit. He turns 31 in February.
Would the Red Sox be willing to splurge for an upgrade at the top of the rotation? The Nationals are after young talent, and Ian Desmond is also on the block. Would packaging Desmond (one of the top shortstops in baseball, and just 29 years old) with either Zimmermann or Fister entice the Red Sox into including Xander Bogaerts in a return package?
Boston could be content to hold their cards and start the season with the roster constituted as is. But there are some dominoes left to fall on the starting pitching carousel, which means Ben Cherington’s phone should be getting a lot of work between now and spring training.