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Setting the Strike Price

An athlete, like a stock, is an investible asset. How do you pitch one worth $210 million?
Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer

Photographer: David Goldman/AP Photo

In January, the Washington Nationals made the biggest investment ever in a free-agent pitcher, signing former Detroit Tigers ace Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract. Betting nine figures on a Cy Young Award winner is a lot different from investing in Apple stock or T-bills—Apple’s earnings may disappoint, but the company will never blow out an elbow. On the other hand, there’s only one Max Scherzer, and every team would love to have him. Adding him has made the Nationals preseason favorites to win the World Series.

How does such an investment come together? Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, says the process is akin to running a Michelin-rated restaurant. “With premium players, it’s like the aroma of a kitchen,” he says. “Everyone wants to eat, but only a few people are going to get to sit at the table. When you have a great season like Max did, the aroma is out in the marketplace. Everybody’s hungry.”