SAN DIEGO -- As Max Scherzer assumes center stage on the MLB free-agent pitching market, agent Scott Boras is skipping the Jon Lester comparisons and likening him to a certain NFL Hall of Famer-in-waiting.
"Max is kind of a Peyton Manning No. 1-type of guy," Boras said Wednesday. "He's always on the information train to improve himself and evaluate his market.
"Last year he turned down a deal (with Detroit) for seven years and $160 million. He looked at the markets. We have a new revenue structure in the game. We're well over $9 billion (in revenues) and he really wanted to have the opportunity for choice -- to see what teams were interested in him. Going into this, we knew there really wasn't going to be any other pitcher who would impact his free-agent pursuit."
Boras addressed a crowd of reporters at the winter meetings, where Lester made major news Tuesday night by agreeing to a six-year, guaranteed $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Lester's agreement included a full no-trade clause and a $30 million signing bonus to be paid out over the life of his deal.
Lester and Scherzer are universally regarded as the top two starters on this winter's free-agent market, with James Shields next in line in the pecking order. But Boras has cited Scherzer's statistical achievements and his relatively low career workload -- or "pitching odometer," as he calls it -- as definitive evidence that Scherzer is in a class of his own.
Scherzer, 30, is a career 91-50 with a 3.58 ERA in seven seasons with Arizona and Detroit. He won the 2013 American League Cy Young Award and has made the All-Star team in each of the past two seasons.
Last spring, Scherzer turned down a long-term offer from Detroit to enter his free agent "walk" year. Boras' revelation of a seven-year, $160 million offer contradicts previous reports that the Tigers had offered Scherzer $144 million.
Although Boras declined to discuss specific expectations for Scherzer in his next contract, his comments indicated he is aiming high and might be shooting for a record payout. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), Detroit's Justin Verlander ($180 million) and Seattle's Felix Hernandez ($175 million) have signed the three biggest deals by starting pitchers in baseball history. But they all agreed to extensions before hitting the open market.
"All the prominent pitchers who've signed were not free-agent players," Boras said. "If you put a pitcher like Kershaw into the free agent market, you're going to get a much different calibration and value. I'm not sure Kershaw's (contract) is relevant."
Scherzer's high expectations are likely to result in a limited number of suitors. Early in the process, the Yankees, Dodgers, Nationals, Red Sox, Giants and Tigers are among the teams that have been mentioned in speculation.
If Boras' history with high-profile players is any indication, Scherzer's free-agent search could drag on into 2015 and play out above the general manager level. In his media session Wednesday, Boras confirmed a report that he has met with multiple ownership figures already on Scherzer's behalf.
"These types of contracts are ownership decisions," Boras said. "They affect whether or not a team is a championship-caliber team. They affect attendance and media rights values and the values of franchises. They're market-impactful decisions."