Max Scherzer or Jon Lester? Why the former Yankee adversary is the better choice
By: Frank Mello-Morales
The following article will likely garner many various opinions and perhaps even complete disagreement. What we can all come to a consensus on, however, is that the Yankees, with the likely departure of Hiroki Kuroda and uncertainty surrounding other members of the rotation, could certainly use at least one more pitcher going into 2015- and preferably a good one. The two top pitching free agents this off-season are veterans Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, each of whom were All Stars in 2014. Both are hitting the open market for the first time in their careers, and will each be commanding top dollar contracts. Along with this mutual prospect, it can also be noted that both pitchers are thirty years of age, and are coming off statistically similar seasons (Lester had the edge in ERA [2.46], Scherzer in WAR [6.0], while both struck out well over 200 batters). To continue, they are both very durable as each have totaled north of 1,000 innings pitched over their last five seasons. So, you may be asking yourself, what’s the difference between the two, and why do I (the writer) deem Lester to be the better acquisition? I apologize for the cheesiness but: Continue reading to find out!
1) Qualifying Offer
Nobody likes the qualifying offer. Teams can’t stand it because, if they sign a player who was issued a qualifying offer (and most good players are), they are forced to give up a first round draft pick to that newly acquired players’ former team. Player’s hate it because it makes teams less likely to pursue them due to not wanting to give up said draft pick (see Stephen Drew). Naturally, both Max Scherzer and Jon Lester have the qualifying offer attached to them, right? Wrong! While Scherzer does, Lester, if you remember, was traded before the deadline this July, from Boston to Oakland. Under the rules of the qualifying offer process, a team cannot tag a free agent of theirs with the offer, if that player was brought to the team by virtue of a trade during that previous season. Therefore, acquiring Lester does not mean a team is losing a draft pick as compensation. This is a rare opportunity that the Yankees should definitely jump on where they can address their present aspirations while, simultaneously, not letting it come at the expense of the farm system and future interests and pursuits.
Just as human’s must breath if they wish to live, the Yankees must win if they wish to please their fan base. This season, New York goes for their record 28th championship. In order to get there, they will first have to make it to the postseason. Once there, they’ll be greeted with the prospect of successfully taking on and subsequently eliminating some of the best teams this game has to offer. So why do I mention this? Only because Jon Lester is quickly becoming one of the more solid October performers of this generation (discard lone playoff appearance this year [fluke]). By no means is this a shot at Scherzer, who has been very solid in his share of October appearances (3.73 ERA in 62.2 innings pitched), but rather further praise to Lester’s track record. In 84 total innings, the two time World Series champ has compiled a sparkling postseason resume, highlighted by a 2.57 ERA and a 6-4 record to boot. During the 2013 postseason with Boston, he was an essential component to the team, anchoring the staff that eventually won it all. That year, in the ALDS, he had a 2.35 ERA, going 1-0. He improved upon that in the ALCS, with an ERA of 2.31, going 1-1 (loss was by no means his fault). And then, of course, there was the World Series, where he absolutely dominated on the sport’s most grand spectacle, going a perfect 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA! If not for “Big Papi” himself, David Ortiz, you can add World Series MVP to Lester’s already outstanding list of career accomplishments.
3) Been There Done That
Like #2, the point I’m trying to make here is with regards to experience. Just as he has had his many moments in the playoffs, Lester has spent the vast majority of his career pitching in the AL East. This division is consistently home to some of the baseballs finest 25 man assemblages. In fact, 2014 was the first year since 2006 that only one team out of the east made the postseason, and still, 3 of the 5 teams within it finished above .500! The atmosphere of New York and Boston, especially, is one that gets to many players, and ultimately results in a decline in performance. This is not the case with Jon Lester, as for many years he met the expectations of the diehard Boston fans, as well as having had his way with the mighty Yankees (5-3 record with a 3.27 ERA over the last 3 years, totaling 74.1 innings pitched). By contrast, it has been no cake walk for Scherzer when facing the AL East, especially with reference to the all too familiar Red Sox and Yankees, teams that, since 2012, he has pitched to the tune of a 4.97 and 4.86 ERA, respectively.
4) South Paw
There’s something special about being left handed. As of late I’ve been busy applying for college, and, subsequently, scholarships. Did you know that there exist scholarships strictly for left handed people? This first class status that comes with being left handed, while not evident in the manufacturing of scissors, is well represented in Major League Baseball. The overwhelming majority of pitchers, like people, are right handed. Therefore, the demand for left handed pitchers is high while the supply is low (I’ve been paying attention in my economics class). This is especially true with regards to the Yankees, who have long prided themselves on having top of rotation left handed pitching, who are well appreciated due to the stadiums favorable dimensions to left handed batters. Whether it’s Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry, Andy Pettitte, or even CC Sabathia, all great Yankee dynasties and championship teams have witnessed the recurring theme of the value of the lefty ace. While Sabathia is still technically active and will likely be a member of next year’s rotation, it’s safe to say that his best days are behind him. This team suddenly finds themselves in need of a new south paw to take over atop the Yankee rotation, and continue the team’s long fabled tradition. Who better to answer the call than Jon Lester?
In complete summation, I hope I was able to clearly make aware my opinion, and offer sufficient evidence to support it. Both of these pitchers are among the game’s best, and any team would be fortunate to have them. However, it is to my understanding and ultimate conclusion, that I deem Jon Lester the better fit for the New York Yankees. Hopefully, come 2015, my wish will be granted, and Jon Lester, a thorn in the Yankees side for many years, will duplicate the actions of his former teammate Jacoby Ellsbury, and join “The Evil Empire”.