How much money are your dreams worth?
That's the question Detroit Tigers free agent Max Scherzer will have to consider if the St. Louis Cardinals make a serious run at trying to sign him to a contract.
And the Redbirds better hope Scherzer concludes his childhood dream of playing for his home town team is worth a lot.
The Cardinals are unlikely to win a bidding war for Scherzer. But they have the financial means to make a competitive offer. One that would make Scherzer unbelievable wealthy even if it doesn't net the 30-year-old hurler the maximum dollars possible.
Pitching in St. Louis must be especially enticing for Scherzer not only because he is a native of the area. But also because the Cardinals are one of the most competitive teams in Major League Baseball and have perhaps the most enthusiastic fan base. It would be different if he was from a town with a second division club and a half-empty ballpark.
A few years ago when players didn't usually get contracts that stretched more than three or four years it was different. But Scherzer is probably going to command a contract that spans six to eight seasons. So this might be his only chance if he wants to play for the Cardinals. By the time his next deal is up, it's likely going to be time for the rocking chair.
With that factor in mind, if he wants to play for the Redbirds, would he sacrifice $40 million? Would he play for St. Louis for $150-$160 million if he could possibly get $200 million from the New York Yankees?
Would he take $40 million more to pitch for the rival Chicago Cubs? It sounds silly when you're talking about a grown man. But if he plans to live in St. Louis after his playing days or over, would Scherzer want to have people come up to him on the street for the rest of his life and say "I can't believe you chose to play for the stinkin' Cubs over the Cardinals?"
That's a big difference in cash, no doubt about it. But what can you realistically do with $200 million that you wouldn't be able to do with $160 million? After taxes and paying their agent, players might take home about half that money. So the you've got $100 million or $80 million to live on the rest of your life. I'm pretty sure I could make it work either way.
On the other hand, maybe Scherzer doesn't want to pitch for the Cardinals.
There's a different kind of pressure being the hometown boy, dealing with people that have a closer personal tie and a different sort of expectations.
Jon Lester, whom the Cardinals are said to be pursuing, doesn't have any ties here. The Birds would have to wow him to make the star lefty decide to pick St. Louis over his other options. But Scherzer has other factors at work. And, if the Redbirds decide to try to sign an ace, there are a lot more factors in their favor than they have with Lester.