Now that the Yankees have traded away Shane Greene in a three-way deal with the Tigers and Diamondbacks, they have huge holes to fill in the rotation. Early in the offseason it seemed like the team would not pursue one of the major free agent starting pitchers on the market, but in recent days they've been linked to both Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. Both are elite pitchers, but which would be a better fit for the Yankees?
Lester: 1596 IP, 8.22 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9, 3.58 ERA, 3.67 xFIP, 1.28 WHIP, 35.4 fWAR
Scherzer: 1239.1 IP, 9.59 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, 0.97 HR/9, 3.58 ERA, 3.42 xFIP, 1.22 WHIP, 27 fWAR
When comparing their stats over their professional careers, Lester and Scherzer are remarkably similar though Scherzer has the slight edge. Both pitchers will turn 31 in 2015, but Scherzer is six months younger and he has the advantage when it comes to workload concerns, as he's pitched about 350 less innings than Lester. Scherzer also has the better strikeout percentage, 25.7% compared to Lester's average of 21.8%. His strikeout numbers have actually improved quite a bit over the last three seasons, considering that he averaged about 8.20 K/9 in 2010 and 2011, yet hasn't dipped below 10 K/9 since then. Lester's K/9 dipped to the 7 range in 2012 and 2013, before bouncing back to 9.01 in 2014.
On the flip side, Lester certainly has his own advantages over Scherzer. For one thing, he has a much higher ground ball percentage of 46.8% compared to 38.8% for Scherzer which would bode well for Yankee Stadium. Lester could be beneficial as a lefty since there are huge concerns surrounding CC Sabathia as he returns to the rotation, including not only the health of his knee, but whether he can still be an effective starter. We all know that the Yankees like their left-handed pitchers, so Lester has the edge there. Since he was traded from the Red Sox to the Athletics in the middle of this past season, he also wouldn't cost the Yankees a draft pick. For what it's worth, Lester also has more familiarity with the hitters in the AL East.
Both had good 2014 seasons, and both will ultimately end up inking hefty contracts. When it comes down to it, Lester and Scherzer are both talented pitchers, and I wouldn't be upset to see the Yankees sign either of them, though Scherzer has gotten better and better over the past three seasons, which has not been the case for Lester. If you had to pick between the two, who would you choose? Vote in the poll below.