The Washington Nationals have reportedly signed Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million deal. That's a lot of money! That's damn near Clayton Kershaw money! Except that it's not, really.
This isn't quite like one of those NFL contracts that's actually only worth half as much as it appears to be, but it does mean that Scherzer's contract is a bit of an illusion. He's going to get all $210 million, but with the payments being spread out over such a long period of time, inflation all but guarantees that the $105 million in deferred money he will receive will actually be less valuable than it would be if he was getting all of it over the life of the contract.
FanGraph's Dave Cameron crunched some numbers, and estimates that Scherzer's new contract—$210 million spread out over 14 years—is about as valuable as a seven-year, $170 million contract when adjusted for inflation.
There are a lot of reasons Scherzer and the Nationals might have wanted to structure the deal this way. Scherzer and his agent get to wave around his "$210 million" contract like a victory flag, while also enjoying the security that will come from 14 years of solid income. Meanwhile, the Nationals have found a nifty way to cut down their luxury tax hit:
Don't be surprised if contracts like these start to become a trend. Massive TV contracts continue to keep baseball in an ever-expanding bubble, and as long as teams are convinced that their money will be worth more in 14 years than it is now, there's no reason for them not to use massive deferrals to skate around the luxury tax while still wooing free-agents with big numbers.