Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is optimistic on his contract situation, reports Jason Beck of MLB.com, and hopes to reach agreement on a new deal with the Tigers before the start of the season. Scherzer will not participate in contract talks after Spring Training, Beck adds.
Scherzer is playing out his last arbitration-eligible season on a one-year, $15.525MM deal that broke the record for a raise by a five-year service time pitcher. The 29-year-old was outstanding last year for Detroit, posting a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 214 1/3 innings. He figures to headline a strong class of free agent starters next year, if a new deal is not reached first.
The two major recent pitching deals could have an impact on Scherzer's negotiations with Detroit. Though it obviously cannot be argued that Clayton Kershaw is a fair comparable for Scherzer -- or anyone else, for that matter -- his seven-year, $215MM deal raises the ceiling for the market. Indirectly, Kershaw's absence from the 2015 free agent class transfers some leverage to Scherzer, who would stand to be the best starter available.
More relevant, perhaps, is the seven-year, $155MM Masahiro Tanaka signing, which rises to the $175MM level when the $20MM release fee is included. Though Tanaka is obviously much younger than Scherzer, he has never thrown a pitch in North America, let alone landed a Cy Young. It is not hard to imagine Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, arguing that his client deserves a larger guarantee than the Japanese ace.
As I explained back in December, the Tigers have cleared a substantial amount of future payroll space over recent months. Whether or not an extension for Scherzer was part of the reason for those maneuvers, Detroit certainly has additional flexibility to fit a new deal.
For his part, Scherzer says that he is excited by the prospect of free agency, but that Detroit "is a place where I want to be." "Going forward, I'm hopeful we can come to some terms on what we can do in the future," said Scherzer. "But if it doesn't happen in the near term, I'm sure we can get it done in the offseason."