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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Robothal: Red Sox’s lowball offer might cost them Lester

This is is looking more and more like left-hander Jon Lester’s last season with the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox’s most recent offer to Lester was far below market value—four years for between $70 million and $80 million, according to sources within the team’€™s clubhouse.

Lester, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, rejected the offer and will not resume negotiations with the club until the offseason, the sources said.

The Red Sox will have an exclusive negotiating period with Lester between the end of the season and the start of free agency. They indicated a willingness to go higher, sources said, but are almost certain to lose Lester unless they dramatically increase their offer. 

Lester has expressed a willingness to give the Red Sox a hometown discount. But the team’s offer is not in line with recent activity on the starting-pitching market.

The District Attorney Posted: April 13, 2014 at 09:32 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: jon lester, red sox

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   1. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 13, 2014 at 10:34 AM (#4685351)
Any thoughts on what he'll get if he tests free agency?
   2. gehrig97 Posted: April 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4685356)
He's an excellent--but not elite--pitcher. I'm thinking Lester will command $20m AAV. He'll be entering his age 31 season when he hits the market (if he hits the market), so I don't expect an 8-yr deal (although... some of the recent signings truly boggle the mind).

Put me down for 5/100 (unless the Yankees get involved).
   3. Mayor Blomberg Posted: April 13, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4685361)
@2: If you're right about AAV, then the offer made isn't particularly lowball, just a year short. Dunno if it was necessary to make an offer yet at all, but after 2012-13, I can understand the Sox wanting to see more than three starts before getting serious.
   4. JE (Jason) Posted: April 13, 2014 at 12:46 PM (#4685387)
Now pitching for your 2015 Boston Red Sox: James Shields.
   5. Dale Sams Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:02 PM (#4685391)
Now pitching for your 2015 Boston Red Sox: James Shields.


Lackey
Buchholz
Doubront
Workman
Capuano/Owens/De la Rosa

That is..with Lackey being near free....about 18 mill (?) on the entire starting staff.
   6. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4685397)
I don't' know if Lester is a $20 mill per year arm. Is he?

I guess it's possible. Weaver signed an extension for 5/$85 two years ago, and he's been a bit better historically. Weaver was age 29 when he signed that deal, and Lester would be 31 if he signed a similar deal. BUT, Weaver looks to be entering the decline phase right now - at least by looking at velocity. I think the Sox pegged his value well. About $18 million a year for 4 years is as high as I'd go.

I might be convinced to go 3/$60 to avoid that last year.....

But 5/$100 seems high for Lester to me anyway.

   7. joeysdadjoe Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4685401)
Somebody will give Lester 22 per.
   8. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:22 PM (#4685406)
Somebody will give Lester 22 per.


Then let them. I don't think he's worth that....
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4685410)
I don't see how 4 for 80 is a "lowball" offer for a guy with 110 and 87 era+ last two seasons, even going by fip he hasn't really set the world on fire (3.59/4.11 last two compared to 3.75/4.82 actual era)

The estimate of 20 mil per year seems a tad high, but about right in todays market. If he can get more than four years, I would imagine that it's from a sucker team (Philly/Mets/Diamondbacks?)



   10. Morton's Fork Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:35 PM (#4685412)
Last six seasons (2008-2013) average: 32 starts, 205 IP, ERA+ 120.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4685420)
The article talks about other pitchers and the money they got
Scherzer (who is effectively the same age as Lester..both born in 1984) got a 6 year deal for $144--average 24mil per.. Rosenthal say they have similar statistical profiles..

Not really sure what stats he's looking at, but in a case like this, it's one of the few times I like fip....and Scherzer over the last three years 2.74/3.27/4.14 vs 3.59/4.11/3.83 for Lester... I'll take Scherzer and it's not really that close.

Then mentions Homer Bailey who got 6 at 105(17.5 mil average) who is two years younger than Lester and has a three year fip of 3.31/3.97/4.06...adjust for the NL and AL difference and Lest pulls ahead... but not by a lot. (note: not using xFip...I figure if the home team is keeping the player fip is more predictive than xFip...but xFip would have strengthen Scherzer's and Bailey's case)

It looks to me like the Red Sox offer is right in line with expectations.... lowball seems to imply that they were clearly lower than they should have been, but I'm not seeing it. If the Red Sox are like the Cardinals, they might have a policy in place to not offer longer than 4 year contracts to pitchers (although the Cardinals have at least twice ignored that policy)

After the disaster that has happened because of the Lackey contract, I can see them being a little hesitant with 5 year deals.
   12. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:48 PM (#4685421)
Last six seasons (2008-2013average32 starts205 IPERA120. 


A season that is 6 years old is nearly irrelevant to a pitcher for next year. Worthless for determining future value.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: April 13, 2014 at 01:48 PM (#4685422)
Last six seasons (2008-2013) average: 32 starts, 205 IP, ERA+ 120.


That is nice and all, but not sure what he did four years ago, has anything to do with what he is going to do in the future, even three years ago is probably pushing the boundaries.

Edit: or what Jim said.
   14. tfbg9 Posted: April 13, 2014 at 02:00 PM (#4685433)
For such meh lefty, Lester sure beat the hell outta the Cards in the WS.

He had one off year under Bobby V., other than that, he's pretty damn good, durable, and yes, clutch. Offer 5 for 100, with a vesting 6th.

I am a Lester fan.
   15. Jim Wisinski Posted: April 13, 2014 at 02:02 PM (#4685434)
Not to mention that the three best seasons in that average are the three furthest away from the present.
   16. gehrig97 Posted: April 13, 2014 at 02:08 PM (#4685438)
Yeah, my uneducated guess of 5/100 was based on recent signings (the Bailey signing, in particular). The going rate for a #2 starter seems to be in the 16-20 range; throw in that Lester has proven durability, is popular in Boston, and, of course, is a lefty, and I see him near the high end of that range. If you project him at, say, 10 WAR over the next three years (at $6m/win) you're right at $20, AAV.

I think 5 years is too long for any pitcher, really (I'd probably go 3/60 as well), but I don't see a shorter contract getting it done.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: April 13, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4685448)
For such meh lefty, Lester sure beat the hell outta the Cards in the WS.


I'm not sure what this has to do with Lester's contract? Red Sox fans need to get it into their heads, that not everything everyone says is about what their fan loyalties.

He had one off year under Bobby V., other than that, he's pretty damn good, durable, and yes, clutch. Offer 5 for 100, with a vesting 6th.

I am a Lester fan.


He had one off year under V, and a decent, but not great year last year. That is a 17-22 mil a year player, not sure what you are objecting too. If he wants to be paid Kershaw type of money, then he needs to put up a Kershaw type of year this year, until then, he's a projected 110 era+ pitcher and the going rate for those type of pitchers is 17-22mil.
   18. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: April 13, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4685479)
How many innings did Mo miss as a young pitcher due to cancer?

As near as I can tell, he was diagnosed midway through 2006, and attended ST in 2007. So maybe 100 innings total?
   19. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 13, 2014 at 03:17 PM (#4685480)
I have gone back and forth on Lester over the years pretty dramatically. He's been a very good pitcher but also a guy who could be very frustrating and feels like he has never become the star that he could have become with a bit more maturity.

I hope the Red Sox sign him. His dependability is a real asset over and above just his rate performances. However, there is a very real likelihood that the Sox would be better off letting him walk. Lester is the same season age CC Sabathia was when he opted out and the Yankees re-signed him to what is starting to look like a not great contract.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: April 13, 2014 at 09:36 PM (#4685686)
The 6 year thing is potentially relevant from a durability standpoint -- if you believe past durability is a predictor of future durability. Which it probably isn't a very good predictor of but it's probably better than signing the guy who's pitched only 800 innings in the last 6 years.

By bWAR, over the last 3 seasons plus, Lester is at 8.5 -- similar to Greinke, CJ Wilson, Bumgarner, Peavy, Cain, Wainwright, Masterson and Holland.

ZG 6/159
CJ 5/78
MB cheap arb/FA buyout
JP 5/77 (in 2010)
MC 6/128
AW 5/98
JM last arb year ($10)
DH cheap arb/FA buyout

Greinke really throws off most performance-based salary comps because he simply hasn't produced outstanding results for several seasons now. Cain's numbers were much better before his extension so is not a great comp for Lester.

Wainwright is really the interesting comp to Lester and gets at my point above. Wainwright was dominant in 2009, 2010 and 2013 (all 6+ bWAR) but he missed all of 2011 and was average or worse in 2012. Sign him for 5 years and you're hoping for 3 dominant, one mediocre and one missed season of production ... but probably just as likely to get 1 dominant, 2-2.5 mediocre and 1.5-2 missed seasons. Lester won't project to any dominant seasons but you'd think he must be a better bet to give you 750+ innings of good not great pitching over 5 seasons.

All told I doubt Lester's edge in past durability gives him enough extra projected durability to overcome Wainwright's superiority when healthy but I'd guess it's pretty close.

A decent comp for Lester as he preps to enter FA is Buehrle as he entered FA. From 2009-11 (ages 30-32), MB had 629 IP and a 114 ERA+. He got only 4/58 but did have disappointing peripherals. But as much as people say he's been disappointing, he put up 5.6 WAR in 400+ IP in 12-13 and is off to a good start this year. 2.5-3 WAR these days is paid around $20 M. Anibal Sanchez was a bit less durable but a bit more WAR and a bit younger from 2010-12 and he signed for 5/88 ... throw in a bit of inflation.

I'll agree the Sox offer doesn't seem to be a lowball. I missed the story of Scherzer's extension but he's also 4.5 bWAR ahead of Lester over the last 3 years. Heck Lohse (much older), Shields (a little older) and Fister (same age) are substantially ahead of him for 11-13 (although he catches up with Fister with every start). If you look at durable pitchers with less WAR than Lester, only Lincecum and Bailey make anything close to $18 M. (There are surely some injured guys who didn't meet my 450 IP cutoff but that's hardly justification for giving Lester a big contract.)

So, I've got to agree. If the Sox offer is in the area of $18 M AAV and 4-5 years, it's a perfectly good offer and certainly an acceptable starting place. Adjust as you want for age and inflation but he doesn't 'deserve' more than Wainwright/Sanchez.

There are potentially some reasonably similar FAs available next year too -- Price, Shields, Masterson and possibly (but unlikely) Gallardo and Cueto. Plus a salary-eating trade for Cliff Lee or possibly Buehrle or (if the Reds keep playing badly) Latos.

I'd say the Sox FO has gotten another one just about right.
   21. Dale Sams Posted: April 13, 2014 at 11:59 PM (#4685735)
Or the Sox could just let Lester walk and back up a truck to Max's house.
   22. vivaelpujols Posted: April 14, 2014 at 12:20 AM (#4685737)
and was average or worse in 2012


Umm Wainwright had 4.0 fWAR in 2012. He may have been average or worse from a "value" standpoint (depending on how you define it), but 2012 was not much of an outlier in terms of predicting future success.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: April 14, 2014 at 03:25 AM (#4685759)
Wainwright 2009-2013: 20 bWAR, 21 fWAR -- the xFIP giveth and the xFIP taketh away.

Lester 2009-13: 20 bWAR, 23 fWAR.

For 2011-13, Lester has just 8 bWAR but 11 fWAR so using fWAR is fine by him. Wainwright has the pesky problem of not pitching in 2011 and so is roughly 1 win behind on both measures.

Side point: xFIP and FIP claims to fame are that they predict ERA. One can't simultaneously reject ERA as the measure we are ultimately interested in and accept FIP.
   24. Nasty Nate Posted: April 14, 2014 at 10:43 AM (#4685841)
This shows an irritating part of the sports media. The headline writer at Fox Sports uses the word “lowball,” and in the body of the article Robothal inserts “far below market value,” and it gets repeated verbatim as it moves through the sports world. And it trickles down until it’s distilled as “the Sox are trying to lowball world series hero Jon Lester, those cheap bastids.” Just because Robothal got the scoop with anonymous details about the offer, his analysis becomes conventional wisdom? If so, shouldn’t he take a little more responsibility and effort with that analysis?

The substance of his article was that the offer was for “four years for between $70 million and $80 million.” Did he have to promise the source that he would paint that as a “lowball” in order to get the information? It sure seems like it. I say that because he brings up the Homer Bailey and Lackey contracts as being supposedly better than the Lester offer. He quotes the Bailey contract as $105m/6. That contract is pretty much equivalent (or only slightly better) to the high end of the sourced offer to Lester – but just because 105>75, we can ignore that it is 2 years longer? But that’s mild compared to him referencing the Lackey FA deal. It is simply dishonest to tell the public that a $82/5 deal with a FREE YEAR in the event of injury is better than a $70-80m/4 year deal. Either Rosenthal does not have a firm understanding of MLB finances and contracts, or he doesn’t mind simply passing along biased analysis in order to cultivate sources. Either way, it would be better for the article that breaks the information that about the Sox offer to just relay the information, and not pollute itself with shoddy or planted analysis.

I don’t blame Lester’s camp for using the media to frame their side. If they didn’t, some stooge writer would come out with anonymous sources about Lester’s greedy contract “demands,” and that narrative would be passed around instead.
   25. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: April 14, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4685925)
I guess it's possible. Weaver signed an extension for 5/$85 two years ago, and he's been a bit better historically.

When this happened we all talked about what an underpay it was.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: April 14, 2014 at 08:09 PM (#4686201)
I say that because he brings up the Homer Bailey and Lackey contracts as being supposedly better than the Lester offer. He quotes the Bailey contract as $105m/6. That contract is pretty much equivalent (or only slightly better) to the high end of the sourced offer to Lester – but just because 105>75, we can ignore that it is 2 years longer?

You have me thoroughly confused here. 6/$105 is massively better than even 4/$80, especially for a pitcher. Lester would be a fool to think he's virtually guaranteed to make at least 2/$25 after this next contract runs out. (That doesn't necessarily mean Lester "deserves" 6/$105 or is a better pitcher or a better projected pitcher than Bailey.)

Lackey's 5/$82 deal was signed in 2010. 5 years of inflation on top of that and the extra year ... something like Wainwright's contract is the equivalent or probably a little lower than Lackey (although the wacky injury option year thingy does complicate matters).

I agree the Sox offer is hardly a "lowball" offer and is a perfectly fine place to start. But if I'm Lackey's agent, I'm working to land around 5/$100 which means I'm probably starting at 5/$110 or higher, building up the WS hero angle, tough competitor, Mr. Durable, etc.

The negotiation in the end will be less about AAV and more about the 5th year I suspect. And maybe something like the Lackey option gets it done.

Anyway, some pitcher AAVs:

Kershaw 31
Verlander 26
Felix 25
Greinke 24.5
Hamels 24
Lee 24
CC 23 (24.4 on his original contract)
Santana 23 (back in 2008! -- that's almost Kershaw money)
Tanaka 22
Cain 21
Halladay 20 (11-13)
Lincecum 20 (12-13)
Wainwright 19.5
Zito 18 (7 year deal in 2008)
Zambrano 18 (08-12)
Lincecum 17.5 (14-15)
Peavy 17.5 (10-12)
Weaver 17

On the one hand, the Sox are offering a deal with an AAV close to Wainwright's; on the other hand, they are offering him a worse extension than Zambrano signed back in 2008. It's also only a bit better than the extension they gave Beckett back in 2011 (4/68). The Yanks gave Burnett a 5/$82.5 deal back in 2009.

At the time, a lot of those guys were among the very best in the game -- Kershaw, Verlander, Felix, Lee, CC, Santana, Halladay, Lincecum I. But many weren't truly elite or (in the case of Cain) just gave you the bad gut feeling and some were downright head-scratchers. But if teams are willing to gamble 7/$154 on Tanaka while offering you less than what Zambrano got ...

Like most anything, it depends on which side you view it from. Something around 4/75-80 is a "fair" starting point but, from Lester's perspective, I am looking for something like 5/95-100. And I'm not convinced the market won't go 5/$110 for him -- probably depends a bit on what happens with Price this year, I think teams consider Price better and he'll get the bigger contract if he's available.

Basically score one minor victory for Lester's agent for getting this into the press.
   27. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 14, 2014 at 08:38 PM (#4686212)
Looking backward at recent contracts doesn't take into consideration that MLB is rolling in dough to an even greater extent than previous years, due to increases in national TV revenue, as well as local TV for many teams. Guys signing now should expect to make more.
   28. Nasty Nate Posted: April 14, 2014 at 09:14 PM (#4686225)
You have me thoroughly confused here. 6/$105 is massively better than even 4/$80 .... especially for a pitcher. Lester would be a fool to think he's virtually guaranteed to make at least 2/$25 after this next contract runs out.

Cmon, it's better, but not massively. What would be a 6-year deal that is roughly equivalent to 4/$80m for someone Lester's age? I would think $95m or $100m. From the team's point of view, 6/90 is definitely better than 4/80, as it won't take much to garner $10m in value over 2 years in 2019-2020.
Lackey's 5/$82 deal was signed in 2010. 5 years of inflation on top of that and the extra year ...

The inflation has not been enough to make 5/82 plus the option better (for the player) than 4/80. And of course, Lackey had the leverage of being a FA so it's not exactly apples to apples. (and Rosenthal is not mentioning the inflation, there's no more nuance than 82>80)
But if I'm (Lester's) agent, I'm working to land around 5/$100 which means I'm probably starting at 5/$110 or higher, building up the WS hero angle, tough competitor, Mr. Durable, etc.

I agree, and thought there was a good chance both sides would have agreed to 5/$100m already.

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