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jon lester feature red soxFanGraphs engages in a fun exercise each year, crowdsourcing free agent contract projections on its site. The 2014/15 set is now out, and you can review it here. Paired with those projections, FanGraphs also looked back at last year’s set, compared with the actual contracts the free agents signed. All in all, the crowd was not too bad last year, overestimating in the aggregate by about 11%. On the big namers, though, the crowd underestimated by a pretty substantial margin.

The wisdom of crowds can be a very good thing, but an obvious grain of salt is necessary here.

Let’s look at some of the names that have been connected to the Cubs, and what the crowd is projecting to give you a sense of things (we’ll go with the median projections, since there are outliers):

  • Jon Lester – 6 years, $132 million
  • James Shields – 5 years, $90 million
  • Russell Martin – 4 years, $56 million
  • Jason Hammel – 3 years, $27 million
  • Jake Peavy – 2 years, $24 million
  • Justin Masterson – 1 year, $9 million

Maybe it’s just years of inflation that have beaten up my expectations, but I don’t think those look like unreasonably high contracts. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the crowd is light once again. My own back-of-the-napkin figures would have Lester right around the crowd’s figure, Shields at 5/$100 million, and Martin at 4/$60 million or maybe even 5/$70 million. The Hammel, Peavy, Masterson trio actually look just about right to me.

The list of 55 free agents is interesting to review. Some look high. Colby Rasmus at 3/$30 million? Francisco Liriano at 3/$36 million seems a little high, and Ervin Santana at 3/$39 million might be what he gets, but I don’t care for it. Some look pretty interesting. If the Rockies decline Brett Anderson’s option, and he gets only one year and $7 million next year? That’s a nice dice roll. Chase Headley at 4/$56 million could actually prove to be a bargain.

Max Scherzer, by the way, tops the list at seven years and $168 million. I bet he gets more. It’s silly season.

In any case, it’s a fun exercise to see what “the crowd” is expecting on these guys. Invariably, the crowd will be wrong quite a bit, but they mostly look pretty accurate to me. But, hey, what do we really know in October?

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