MINNEAPOLIS — When Jon Lester and Max Scherzer hit the free-agent market this fall, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have a lot at stake.
The Dodgers might not bid for either pitcher. However, Zack Greinke can opt out of his Dodgers contract after next season. If Lester and Scherzer cash in this year, Greinke figures to file for free agency, or at least to renegotiate his contract with the Dodgers.
"What happens with Lester and Scherzer will say a lot," Greinke said at Monday's All-Star festivities.
Greinke, 30, would forfeit three years and $71 million if he opts out of his contract, presumably in the hope of securing a longer and more lucrative guarantee. If he plays out his Dodgers contract, he would not be eligible for free agency until 35.
Greinke said he has noticed teams have been increasingly reluctant to pay veteran pitchers for past performance and increasingly willing to pay younger pitchers on projected rather than proven excellence.
"They're paying more for future performance," Greinke said.
That makes Greinke particularly curious to see how Lester and Scherzer fare in free agency.
Lester, the Boston Red Sox ace, is 30. Scherzer, who turns 30 this month, rejected a $144 million extension offer from the Detroit Tigers this year.
The way Greinke sees it, he would hit free agency at a similar age, and he considers himself a similar pitcher - a notch below the elite level of teammate Clayton Kershaw, who signed a $215 million extension with the Dodgers this year, and CC Sabathia, who agreed to a $161 million deal with the New York Yankees in 2008 and used the leverage of an opt-out clause to add another $30 million in 2011.
"Scherzer and Lester, they're fantastic," Greinke said, "but they're not at Sabathia's level when he was a free agent."
Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million free-agent contract with the Dodgers in 2012, at the time the richest contract in history for a right-handed pitcher. That would seem to be a pretty good deal for a pitcher who does not regard himself as the best.
"There's a lot of money in the game," Greinke said. "You don't know how much money is actually in the game, or how much money the owners are making. Obviously, they're making a lot. Salaries are going up."