Breaking down the 10 largest deals for pitchers
The top two free-agent pitchers are officially off the market, with David Price and Zack Greinke agreeing this week to two of the four largest contracts ever awarded to pitchers.
Price's seven-year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox is the biggest contract ever for a pitcher, while Greinke's reported six-year, $206.5 million pact with the D-backs also cracks the top five. With those two deals, there have now been four pitchers to receive a contract worth more than $200 million -- all of which have come in the last three years.
CC Sabathia's seven-year, $161 million deal -- a record for pitchers when he signed it in 2009 -- now ranks sixth among the largest pitcher contracts of all-time. Below is a list of the 10 highest-paying contracts signed by pitchers.
This list is based strictly on a pitcher's overall salary and includes only contracts that were fulfilled or are still being played out. In other words, the six-year deal worth $147 million that Zack Greinke agreed to in 2012 does not qualify, due to the fact that he opted out of the contract after only three seasons. Current contracts that have upcoming opt-out clauses are noted with an asterisk.
Without further ado, here's a closer look at the 10 largest contracts signed by a pitcher, as well as how each one panned -- or is panning -- out.
10. Cole Hamels, Phillies
Total: $144 million
With trade speculation swirling around Hamels prior to the 2012 Trade Deadline, the Phils instead signed the southpaw to a six-year, $144 million extension. As it turns out, that agreement would keep Hamels in Philadelphia for only three more years before being traded to Texas at this year's Deadline. He's racked up a 3.19 ERA over 107 starts since signing that extension, though his ERA jumped more than a run from a career-best 2.46 in 2014 to 3.65 this past season. After spending the past two years with the rebuilding Phillies, Hamels is now set to play out the rest of his contract for the reigning American League West champion Rangers.
8 (tie). Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
Total: $155 million
Years: 2014-20 *
The Yanks ultimately emerged victorious in the Tanaka sweepstakes following the right-hander's highly-anticipated decision to pursue a Major League career after years of dominating hitters in Japan. After posting the winning bid for his negotiating rights, they quickly agreed to a seven-year deal worth $155 million, though Tanaka has the right to opt out after the 2017 season, the fourth year of his deal. Tanaka lived up to the hype out of the gate, posting a 2.77 ERA in his rookie season, though a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow limited him to 20 starts. He also missed more than a month this past season due to right wrist tendinitis and a forearm strain, en route to finishing with a 3.51 ERA in 24 starts.
8 (tie). Jon Lester, Cubs
Total: $155 million
Two of the contracts featured on this list came just last offseason, starting with Lester's six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs. Fresh off posting a career-best 2.46 ERA over 32 combined starts with Boston and Oakland in 2014, Lester racked up a respectable 3.34 ERA over 32 starts in his debut season with Chicago. With only one year in the books, this contract remains in wait-and-see mode.
7. Sabathia, Yankees
Total: $161 million
The Yanks lured a then-28-year-old Sabathia to New York with a seven-year, $161 million deal following the 2008 season. It started well, with Sabathia going 74-29 with a 3.22 ERA over his first four years in the Bronx, all while averaging 32 starts per season. In the midst of that impressive run, the two sides agreed to add one year and $30 million to the existing contract. Over the final three years of the original deal, however, Sabathia has accumulated a 4.81 ERA and averaged only 23 starts per season.
6. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Total: $175 million
Hernandez agreed to an extension prior to the 2013 season that essentially equated to a seven-year, $175 million deal. He's responded by pitching to a 2.86 ERA over 96 starts in the three seasons since, including a Major League-leading -- and career-best -- 2.14 ERA in '14. Hernandez, who turns 30 in April, has established himself as a perennial AL Cy Young Award candidate, receiving votes in six of the past seven seasons, including each of the past four.
5. Justin Verlander, Tigers
Total: $180 million
Verlander went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA in 2011 en route to accomplishing the rare feat of winning both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP Award. He then followed it up in '12 by finishing as the runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award voting, and he was thus rewarded prior to the '13 season with an extension worth $180 million over seven years. The right-hander hasn't been quite as dominant since, going 33-32 with a 3.84 ERA over the first three seasons of the deal. Verlander also was limited to just 20 starts in '15 due to a triceps injury, marking the only time in his 10 full seasons that he's started less than 30 games.
4. Greinke, D-backs
Total: $206.5 million
On the same day that the Red Sox finally made their record deal with Price official, Greinke reportedly agreed to a $200-plus million deal of his own. Though the terms of the deal are not necessarily surprising, not many forecasted the D-backs seemingly coming out of nowhere to land the highly-pursued free agent. Greinke is coming off an historic 2015 campaign in which he posted a 1.66 ERA -- the lowest in 20 years -- and finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting.
3. Max Scherzer, Nationals
Total: $210 million
A little more than a month after Lester signed his $155 million deal with the Cubs, Scherzer landed a $210 million contract from the Nats. Scherzer, who turned 31 in July, finished his first season in D.C. with a 2.79 ERA, while tying for the Major League lead in both complete games (four) and shutouts (two). Scherzer also tossed not one, but two no-hitters in his debut season with Washington, becoming only the sixth pitcher in Major League history to throw multiple no-hitters in a single season.
2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Total: $215 million
Years: 2014-20 *
The Dodgers locked up Kershaw to a seven-year, $215 million deal after the southpaw won his second NL Cy Young Award in a three-year span in 2013. He quickly helped justify the then-record contract by promptly winning his third NL Cy Young Award in four years in '14, while also winning a fourth consecutive NL ERA title and being named the NL MVP Award winner. Kershaw got off to a slow start this past season, but he rebounded to finish with a 2.13 ERA and a career-best 301 strikeouts.
1. Price, Red Sox
Total: $217 million
Years: 2016-22 *
After helping guide Toronto to an AL East title as a midseason acquisition last year, Price ultimately decided to sign a record-breaking contract with division-rival Boston. The seven-year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox also comes with an opt-out clause following the 2018 season. Price, a former No. 1 overall pick and the '12 AL Cy Young Award winner, won his second AL ERA title in three years last season, notching a combined 2.45 ERA over 32 starts with the Tigers and Blue Jays.