This offseason, there will be a lot of attention on which starting pitchers sign where. And, it all begins with Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields.
On Monday, Shields reportedly got a qualifying offer from the Kansas City Royals that amounted to $15.3 million. When he declines that, which he is expected to do, that means the Royals either sign him or will get a compensatory draft pick for losing him.
Scherzer and Lester are also both in line for big free agent payoffs this offseason as teams look to bulk up their rotations.
Who is the best of the group?
Scherzer, who is 30 and won the 2013 American League Cy Young Award, might just be the best. He turned down six years and $144 million from the Tigers after that Cy Young season, knowing free agency was coming up.
He was 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA last year. Not Cy Young stuff, but still a great season.
- Billy Beane's biggest failure was this season with A's
- Max Scherzer bought insurance after taking free agent risk
- Lester needs to prove worth by beating Royals in wild card game
Lester was the Athletics' huge rental that cost them Yoenis Cespedes. He's also 30, is coming off a 16-11 season with a 2.45 ERA, and has the added benefit of being a lefty. So, he might even command more on the free-agent market than Scherzer.
Shields is a little older, at 32, and has never had the lights out stuff that Scherzer or Lester have. He's just a solid guy who knows how to get hitters out at the top of the rotation and held a 14-8 record with a 3.21 ERA last season.
Who else is there?
If teams aren't interested or can't afford the big three money-makers, they will go after one of the many others who will be out there.
Those include Hiroki Kuroda, Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana, Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy, Jason Hammel, Edinson Volquez, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Chad Billingsley, Ryan Vogelsong and Brandon Morrow.
There are plenty in there that can help a team, but Masterson and Kuroda might just be the best.