SAN DIEGO — Clayton Kershaw is considered the top pitcher in baseball, with three Cy Young Awards in four years for the Los Angeles Dodgers, an NL Most Valuable Player award and a $215 million, seven-year contract.
Max Scherzer may be seeking an even bigger deal as his talks on the free-agent market move forward.
“I’m not sure Kershaw is relevant,” agent Scott Boras said Wednesday at the winter meetings, “because he’s not a free agent.”
Jon Lester became the first top-level, free-agent starting pitcher to reach an agreement this offseason, a $155 million, six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs that came together late Tuesday night.
Scherzer turned down an offer from Detroit last March that would have paid $144 million from 2015-20. Kershaw has the largest contract for a pitcher in both total dollars has the sport’s highest average salary at $30.7 million.
“The prominent pitchers that have signed, (Justin) Verlander or (Felix) Hernandez or Kershaw, were not free-agent players,” Boras said. “And certainly if you put a performance like Kershaw into a free-agent market, you’re going to get a much, much different calibration of value.”
Scherzer’s negotiations figure to stretch on for weeks or even into next year.
But other players were on the move or close to switching teams.
In trade talks, the Dodgers were trying to acquire shortstop Jimmy Rollins from Philadelphia and send All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon and right-hander Dan Haren to Miami.
The Phillies started retooling by dealing left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo to Pittsburgh for minor league lefty Joely Rodriguez.
Among free agents, Houston agreed to an $18.5 million, three-year contract with Luke Gregerson and a $12.5 million, two-year deal with Pat Neshek, people familiar with the negotiations said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deals with the right-handed relievers were subject to physicals.
And the Chicago White Sox finalized a $46 million, four-year contract with closer David Robertson.
Lester’s deal could open up the marketplace for other free agents and for players who may be available in trades, such as Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, Detroit’s David Price and Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann.
Lester helped the Red Sox win World Series titles in 2007 and ’13. Boston made a $70 million, four-year offer during spring training, and after the Red Sox couldn’t reach an agreement on a new deal in July, they traded him to Oakland. Boston fell about $20 million short with its offer this week.
“I think we would have liked to have had more chance for dialogue prior to the season,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “Why that didn’t happen, maybe there’s more than one reason. I think we can certainly learn from the process.”
San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers also had sought the left-hander.
“I think it raises the bar on all pitching,” New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “Heretofore, there’s been a lot of conversation about how valuable offense could be and, of course, we got (Giancarlo) Stanton, we got the big $300 million-plus contract. But right behind that, the next-highest is Lester. So I think it re-establishes the notion that pitching is still at a premium and highly desirable and costly.”