ON DEC. 9, Jon Lester agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs (page 36), making him the 15th pitcher in baseball history to sign a nine-figure deal. MAX SCHERZER(left) is likely to be the 16th, and JAMES SHIELDS could join them in the $100 million club this winter.
All three hurlers are at least 30 years old, and therefore are poor bets to maintain their high performance for the length of a long-term deal. In fact, if history is any guide, that decline will be sudden and steep. This chart shows how the first 14 $100 million pitchers have fared, on average, during each year of their contracts, as measured by baseball-reference.com's version of Wins Above Replacement, as well as how 13 of them did in the season before they signed. (Masahiro Tanaka inked a nine-figure contract before his rookie season of 2014.)
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
Average WAR by year
Last season precontract ... 5.5
Year 1 ... 4.6
Year 2 ... 3.4
Year 3 ... 3.9
Year 4 ... 0.9
Year 5 ... 1.1
Year 6 ... 0.8
Year 7 ... -1.5
Year 8 ... 0.1
THEY SAID IT
"Well, @Dodgers we had a good run! Great to be a part of such a storied franchise. #thanksfor thememories"
Andrew Heaney tweet after the pitcher was traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers on Dec. 10, and then from the Dodgers to the Angels minutes later.