Do James Shields and Ervin Santana trump Jon Lester?


Pitchers do not come with warranties and the chances are, when you expect 30+ starts a year average out of a five or six-year contract, they won’t last. The wear and tear factor is evident. Have your boys and girls practice orthopedics and specialize in Tommy John surgery and it will offer a lifetime of security.

Jon Lester will hit the market and if it is all about the money, he will get it. The Yankees would find a power left-hander quite attractive in their quaint ballpark as would just about any team flush with cash. Lester may even pass Max Scherzer as the plum to be purchased in the free agent market. And, that plum was $144M at one time.

The numbers tossed around are fantasy. No one really knows what a competitive market will generate for Lester or just about any other player. Seems like six years, $150M is a figure that is often mentioned. Maybe a hometown (Boston) discount could cut that to six years, 149M?

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Would it be more advisable to toss the fiscal eggs into one basket or two?

James Shields will get his money. In the Lester-Scherzer-Shields mix, “Big Game James” will be in the runner-up slot. Shields will also have a few more suitors since the price-conscious realize he may have a less than $100M price tag.

Shields will be 33 years old and has about 1,900 innings on his very consistent arm. Lester, by comparison, will have about 1,600. Shields, no doubt, will want both years and money. Shields has a nice streak of eight consecutive years of ten or more wins, routinely takes the ball for 30+ starts, tosses 200 innings with regularity and keeps his BB/9, FIP, xFIP, WHIP, ERA and a dozen other numbers in the sensible range. My eyes finally glossed over so I escaped Fangraphs.

Would Shields be accessible for a Lackey type contract? Would a five years, $90M be enough?

Ervin Santana is another peg down on the FA ladder but is far from the proverbial chopped liver.

Santana also has some significant baseball mileage as he is in that 1,900 innings pitched range. Like having a pristine Ford Focus with 90,000 miles. Running fine, but you never know.

Santana was left out in the FA cold the last round until he actually received a nice $14.1M from Atlanta when their staff disintegrated in the spring. A one-year trial run.

Santana, age 32, also takes the ball on a regular basis, but unlike Lester and Shields, the results are a bit different. Wandering through his stats, both advanced and traditional, I see inconsistency popping up on occasional years. I was also surprised by the number of wins and starts. The fact is, when he is good, he can be very good.

A 2014 Santana would be a fine addition to any staff. His BB/9, FIP, ERA, and the usual dig down deep stats show nothing of particular alarm. A nice FA run in the works for the once-rejected Santana.

What would be the price tag?

No one wanted to pony up with the qualifying offer hung on his lapel, but it might be different this time around. If Edwin Jackson can get a boat load of dough, so can a superior Ervin Santana. The question is, how much dough in that boat and for how many years? For the sake of debate let’s go short on years and long on money – four year, $65M.

That brings me to the points: is it (1) less of a risk signing two for the potential price of one? And (2) is that ACE status of Lester enough to offset the close-to-ACE Shields and middle rotation (or lower) Santana?

I like to lessen the risk and with the qualifier of the cost being relatively close I would go with door number two – Shields and Santana – and leave Lester behind door number one to be scooped up by the Cubs, Yankees or a very short list of others.

With Lester, Shields and Santana you know what you are getting and with the rest of the Red Sox rotation you do not. The baseball jury is still deliberating Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and the Faberge Egg known as Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox need experience and have to lessen any risk an all-or-nothing may present.

Of course the best case is the Red Sox get all three and somehow get Giancarlo Stanton. So much for dreaming.