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Max Scherzer Rumors
Saturday afternoon, Nationals starter Max Scherzer no-hit the Pirates, losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth when Jose Tabata leaned down to allow himself to get hit in the elbow — in a 6-0 game. The ending aside, it was a dominant performance by Scherzer, who is, improbably, having the best season of his career in the first year of his contract in Washington. 14 starts in, Scherzer has cut his walk rate in half compared to last season, during which he was already clearly an elite pitcher. After today’s ten-strikeout performance, he’s also whiffed 123 batters in 102 1/3 innings. Tabata’s HBP dashed Scherzer’s chances of a perfect game today, but if he keeps pitching this brilliantly, there might be more shots in his future. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- In 2012, the Red Sox made a franchise-changing trade, dealing Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers and freeing up salary in the process. That deal ended up helping them win the 2013 World Series. Now, the 2015 Red Sox look a little bit like the 2012 version, and Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, following up on a column by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, wonders whether they ought to consider dumping players yet again to give themselves more flexibility. Britton suggests, though, that it would be difficult to find a trade partner as perfect for their current situation as the Dodgers (who willingly took on heaps of money to get a good player in Gonzalez) were in 2012. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, meanwhile, is withholding judgment on the new contracts of players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. “We’ve had plenty of examples of guys who five or 10 percent of the way through their contracts, there was an adjustment period and they didn’t take off quite yet and then in time they do,” said Cherington earlier this week. “I’m not going to make any judgments on any specific decision or player based on that short amount of time.” Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Despite his unusual background, former GM Dan Jennings is settling in as the Marlins‘ new manager, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. When Jeffrey Loria broached the subject of Jennings taking the managerial job, Jennings had the same reaction as much of the rest of the industry: “Have you lost your mind?” After beginning Jennings’ tenure with five straight losses, the Marlins are 13-12. “It’s starting to normalize. The boys are playing well, and I’m proud of the way we’ve responded,” says Jennings. “I’m having a blast.”
- Acquiring high-upside talent in the draft can be difficult, so the Braves have tried to acquire talented, if tarnished, pitchers in trades, Ray Glier writes for Baseball America. Those include Manny Banuelos, Chris Withrow, Arodys Vizcaino, Max Fried and Tyrell Jenkins, all of whom have had significant injuries. The Braves’ top 2015 draft pick, Kolby Allard, likewise fell to them because of an injury. “Before you know it, the end of 2015 will be here and it will be 2016, and we will have a lot of fresh, healthy pitchers,” says GM John Hart. As Glier notes, sometimes injury recoveries don’t go smoothly. But Hart insists the Braves are being careful. “For every guy we have acquired I can honestly say we have another 10 to 12 we didn’t bite down on because we didn’t get good enough medical information that allowed us to pull the trigger,” Hart says.
In his latest Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off by discussing Ryan Howard‘s increased trade value. Howard is hitting .256/.298/.519 with 10 homers this season, and while the OBP is lackluster, he’s performed particularly well of late, hitting .307/.340/.602 with six homers this month (a .389 BABIP on the month, though, is heavily influencing those numbers). The Phils were willing to pay down $35MM or so of Howard’s remaining contract this offseason, and doing so would make him a roughly $10MM player this season and next. While Heyman notes that might be seen as a fair price, he adds that some scouts and executives will want to see more sustained production before considering a move, which strikes me as more than reasonable; I doubt three weeks of hot hitting have transformed him from albatross into hot commodity. The Orioles, Royals and Rays all discussed Howard with the Phillies this offseason but went different directions, and Heyman looks at those three teams as well as five others in determining if there’s a fit to be made. Howard received 10-and-5 rights on May 2, however, allowing him to veto any deal. And while many reports have indicated it won’t get in the way of a trade, Heyman hears that Howard is happier in Philadelphia now than he was over the winter and wonders if he might require some kind of incentive to waive those rights.
Some more highlights from a lengthy column …
- The Orioles never really came close to reaching an extension with starter Chris Tillman this spring, and talks are on hold at present. The 27-year-old has scuffled early this year with a 5.59 ERA over 48 1/3 innings.
- David Robertson could have taken home even more than the $46MM promised to him by the White Sox, says Heyman, as an unnamed team offered him more this winter. That provides yet more reason to believe that plenty of teams are still willing to pay top dollar for premium relievers.
- While the Tigers are very interested in attempting to retain Yoenis Cespedes beyond the current year, Heyman says that all signs point to him reaching free agency. Detroit can, of course, pursue him on the open market, but sources tell Heyman that Cespedes is unlikely to agree to an extension.
- Likewise, the Tigers don’t appear to have much hope of an extension with ace David Price, and Heyman says they “aren’t overwhelmingly confident” that he’ll be back. Detroit’s front office believes that Price will look to top Max Scherzer‘s contract.
- The Astros are sorting through many pitching acquisition possibilities, and Aaron Harang of the Phillies has “at least been discussed” by the club. Fellow Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels may come with too much contract for Houston, but Heyman reports that the club does see Reds free agent-to-be Johnny Cueto as a possibility.
- While Brewers GM Doug Melvin has given signals that he’s ready to sell early, owner Mark Attanasio may prefer the club hold off until at least the upcoming draft. While PR considerations seem to be a factor, that may be the best strategy anyway; the team could still get out ahead of the market, while allowing it to mature somewhat before acting.
- Be sure to check out the piece for more interesting items around the league.
Full Story | 100 Comments | Categories: Aaron Harang | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago White Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Cole Hamels | David Price | David Robertson | Detroit Tigers | Doug Melvin | Houston Astros | Johnny Cueto | Kansas City Royals | Max Scherzer | Milwaukee Brewers | Philadelphia Phillies | Relievers | Ryan Howard | Tampa Bay Rays | Yoenis Cespedes
Earlier today, we learned the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright could miss the rest of the season after suffering an Achilles injury in last night’s game against the Brewers. GM John Mozeliak has said he will wait to determine Wainwright’s status until the right-hander has been examined by team doctors tomorrow. However, that hasn’t stopped the speculation from bubbling as to how the Cardinals will replace their ace.
Here’s the latest on those rumors and the rest of the news from the National League:
- With the Cardinals set to host the Phillies for four games beginning tomorrow, Cole Hamels tops the list of external options to fill Wainwright’s void. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets the Cardinals do not have the prospects to satisfy the Phillies, but the Dodgers and Red Sox are lurking.
- Besides Hamels, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz opines the Cardinals could puruse a high-caliber starter entering their walk year like David Price, Jordan Zimmermann or Jeff Samardzija. Miklasz, who does examine the Cardinals’ internal candidates, also suggests signing Paul Maholm or acquiring an under-the-radar pitcher like the Phillies‘ Aaron Harang.
- Hamels trade talks could accelerate in the wake of injuries to Wainwright, the Dodgers‘ Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu, and the struggles of the Red Sox‘s staff, writes Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Speaking of the Dodgers, the new front office’s philosophy of adding depth with low profile transactions was put into place to weather a rash of injuries and those acquisitions will now become more relevant, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Mark Saxon.
- One by-product of Wainwright’s injury could be a renewed push for the NL to adopt the DH, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. “I wouldn’t be opposed,” Max Scherzer told Heyman. “If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit — Big Papi or me? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules. We keep searching for offense. This would be the easiest way to add offense.” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, as quoted by MLive.com’s Aaron McMann, puts it more bluntly, “When a pitcher goes down with an injury when he’s hitting, you make people second guess the National League’s style of play.“
The Rays will honor the late Don Zimmer by announcing that his #66 jersey will be retired in a ceremony on Opening Day. Zimmer only wore #66 for one season during his 11 years as a senior advisor for the Rays, as he increased his uniform number by one every season to reflect how many years he had spent in baseball. The beloved long-time coach, manager and player passed away last June.
- Using Max Scherzer‘s signing with the Nationals as an example, Scott Boras discusses how he markets (though the agent dislikes that term) and presents his major free agent clients in an interview with Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. Boras and his staff identify which teams are ideal fits for his clients and then specifically tailors each pitch to relate to each team owner during negotiations. With Scherzer, Boras had four lengthy meetings with Nats owner Ted Lerner highlighting how Scherzer would create more value to the franchise both baseball-wise and from a business perspective.
- MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo debate which club has had the best farm system of the last five years. Callis chose the Nationals since they’ve found more superstar talent, while Mayo picked the Cardinals due to their system’s overall depth.
- The possibility of an international draft has been a topic of discussion throughout baseball lately, with proponents like commissioner Rob Manfred advocating a “single modality of entry” to allow consistency in the way MLB teams sign amateurs from various parts of the world. Flipping the idea around, however, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports suggests that MLB could instead ensure consistency by abolishing the amateur draft. Instead of a draft, MLB could allow teams to spend a predetermined amount on amateur players (be they domestic or international) each year. Neyer favors doing so in such a way that would stop baseball from penalizing winning by having the top teams take lower draft picks. The idea could also be easily modified so that teams with the worst records would be able to spend more money. In either case, Neyer believes his system would encourage all teams to hunt for talent both at home and abroad.
- It’s becoming rare to see pre-arbitration players sign extensions that don’t cover at least one free agent year, yet Brian Dozier‘s new contract with the Twins is such a deal, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards writes in his analysis of the extension. Edwards thinks more players could possibly pursue “a safe deal” like Dozier’s if they “place an emphasis on getting to free agency.”
- Orlando Hudson is in the Diamondbacks‘ camp to work with the infield, though he plans to be back on a diamond in more than an instructor role, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports (via Twitter). Hudson hopes to play winter ball and attempt a Major League comeback for the 2016 season. The 37-year-old former Gold Glove second baseman last played in the bigs in 2012 and had seemingly hung up his spikes following brief stints in the Mexican and Dominican winter leagues in 2013.
Max Scherzer knows exactly what David Price is experiencing as the left-hander enters his last year under contract, and Scherzer told reporters (including James Schmehl of Mlive.com) that facing free agency inevitably adds another element to a pitcher’s season. “You only get one shot at this, to sign a big deal,” Scherzer said. “He’s going to be in a position to do it, whether he does it now or in the offseason. That’s his choice. But you have to do it right. That’s something you have to be comfortable with.” Scherzer said that he blocked out the pressure by simply focusing on winning games, advice that Price seems to be following. “I’ve gone year-to-year for the last four years now, so every year is a contract year,” Price said. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not what I’m focused on. It’s not what I’m worried about….I just need to go out there, have fun and play baseball.”
Here are more notes from various rotations around the game…
- The Cardinals have a nice problem with Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia all looking good in Spring Training, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t see any reason why the team shouldn’t keep this rotation surplus in place. Some could argue that the Cards could trade one of these excess starters, yet Miklasz notes that the club will inevitably need starting depth beyond the five in the rotation.
- Beyond Cole Hamels, there aren’t many top-flight pitchers available on the trade market for teams looking to fill rotation holes, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece. Olney cites the Padres as a team who might have enough depth to trade some pitching now, while the Rays could conceivably explore dealing Alex Cobb or Drew Smyly in the coming months if they decide they can’t contend this season.
- Also from Olney, he wonders (based only on his own speculation) if the Orioles and Dodgers could fit as trade partners in a bad-contract deal of Ubaldo Jimenez for Andre Ethier. It’s not a bad idea, though the trade probably works better for L.A. than it does for Baltimore since losing Jimenez (even considering his 2014 struggles) would leave the O’s a bit thin on rotation depth.
We have not heard much today on Hector Olivera after a busy run the last few days, but the Braves are still “monitor[ing] his market,” per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Atlanta’s comfort level on cost seems to land in the $30MM to $40MM range, per the report.
Here are a few more notes from the NL East:
- Phillies veteran Cliff Lee did not experience any improvement in his bullpen session today, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. “I got through it,” he said. “There’s still something there. Same as yesterday.” Lee will throw again Thursday, and says he will keep trying to work through the discomfort so long as it does not get worse. The situation has wide-ranging implications, of course, one of them simply on the remainder of the club’s staff. Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News breaks down the latest on some of the team’s next men up, including Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, and Miguel Gonzalez.
- Nationals starter Max Scherzer says that there really was a mystery team (other than his former club, the Tigers) that pursued him over the winter, as James Schmehl of MLive.com reports (Twitter links). Scherzer added that he was surprised that Detroit went public regarding the significant extension offer he signed last spring.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer bet on himself when he rejected the Tigers $144MM extension offer last spring, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The ace discussed the Tigers’ offer, the resultant insurance policy he took out, and his current contract with Rosenthal. Below are the specifics from that article, although it also contains a number of great quotes from Scherzer not included here.
Of interest, Scherzer’s insurance policy would have paid $40MM if an injury forced him to take an offer below the $144MM offered by Detroit. The policy cost $750K and covered every type of injury including elbow and shoulder ailments. Said Scherzer, “once you took the injury-risk factor out of it, and you can just go play baseball and not have to worry about anything . . . I was set.”
Ultimately, Scherzer did not need to call upon the policy. He inked a seven-year, $210MM deal with the Nationals in January. Half of the total is deferred until 2022-2028 and will be paid in $15MM yearly installments. The players’ union values the contract at $191.4MM due to the deferrals.
The structure of the deal is actually beneficial to both Scherzer and the Nationals. The signing bonus and deferrals won’t be subject to state income taxes. Washington D.C. doesn’t have an income tax for non-residents. Scherzer has set up residency in Florida, which also does not have an income tax. The deferrals will be paid to him there.
As you might expect, Scherzer wasn’t hoodwinked when taking the deferred money. Nor was another club pushed out of the bidding by the Nationals. “I know finance. I know deferral money. I get all that. But this was the best offer. If another team wanted to make a better offer without a deferment, we never received it. This was the best offer.”
In my view, Scherzer’s use of insurance could have implications for other players. Earlier today, we learned about the confidence Andrew McCutchen received from his team friendly contract extension. It’s intuitive, a player who doesn’t have to worry about his financial future can focus on playing his best. Insurance could offer an alternative to an early career contract extension for some athletes – especially those who want to test free agency at the earliest opportunity.
We recently look a look at the Boston outfield situation, noting that the logjam still seemed in need of clearance. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes in response to a fan that the Red Sox need to trade Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, or both. A healthy Victorino, he continues, would likely either be a regular in the outfield or be traded. Cafardo adds that he does not expect a bench role to suit the veteran, although Boston would likely have to eat some of Victorino’s $13MM salary to trade him.
Here are some more notes out of Boston, all via WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford:
- The Red Sox had “numerous discussions” with Scott Boras about Max Scherzer over the offseason, Bradford reports. Boston valued Scherzer on the level of Jon Lester, and eventually came to realize that it was not going to get him at a price the team was willing to pay. Boras never gave any indication that a cut rate might be had for Scherzer, a source tells Bradford, and it seems clear in retrospect that he had good reason for that stance.
- Boston did end up with another talented righty at a much lower cost in Justin Masterson. As Bradford writes, the former Indian bet on himself last year and lost. But he says he has no regrets about failing to reach an extension with Cleveland and settling for a one-year, make-good deal with the Sox. Of course, at a $9.5MM salary, Masterson is receiving quite a nice guarantee while he tries to work through his troubles.
- Another right-handed starter entering a potential contract year for the Red Sox is Clay Buchholz, who Bradford spoke with recently. Suddenly the veteran of the staff, Buchholz’s guaranteed money runs out after this season. The club controls him for two more years through successive options ($13MM and $13.5MM, respectively), but it is far from certain that they will be picked up. Either way, Buchholz is certainly pitching for his next contract, and tells Bradford that he hopes a normal offseason will contribute to a strong 2015.
- Bradford was also among the reporters to speak with Koji Uehara yesterday as Uehara detailed his thought process when it came to re-signing in Boston. “No doubt at all,” said Uehara. “It was the only team I talked to so I was pretty sure if I was going to sign it was going to be with the Red Sox. Since the Red Sox had offers of multiple years that really erased any doubts going into the offseason as a free agent. … Because of my age, it was very important.”
Prince Fielder is one of several players whose hoped-for return to past production levels will go a long way toward determining the near-term fate of the Rangers. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News provides an interesting profile of Fielder, who says he is recharged, newly appreciative, and raring to go for 2015.
Here are a few more notes from around the league:
- The Orioles are headed toward an arbitration hearing with outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Executive VP Dan Duquette explains that the club informed De Aza it had made him its best offer and would take a “file to go” strategy from that point forward. He expressed surprise that the team’s $5MM proposal was not accepted, noting that there had been discussions of a two-year deal as well. De Aza filed at $5.65MM, which actually falls shy of the $5.9MM that MLBTR and Matt Swartz projected. Baltimore’s arbitration strategy was actually the first topic covered by Kubatko in his recent appearance on the MLBTR Podcast.
- MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said today that the league’s investigation into possible tampering by the Cubs into then-Rays manager Joe Maddon is still in progress, as ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers reports. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Maddon’s agent, Alen Nero, have both insisted that nothing untoward occurred, but it appears that MLB will take its time and cover the matter thoroughly before coming to any conclusions.
- Max Scherzer‘s departure from the Tigers appears to have been all but a formality from the point that he rejected the club’s $140MM offer last spring, as the righty explained to MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Scherzer said that he wasn’t interested in holding contract talks during the season, and that the club was not interested in negotiating when Scherzer’s camp “reached out” over the offseason. Indeed, Scherzer said that both he and Rick Porcello realized some time ago that the club was likely going to undergo a lot of turnover in the coming years, which has indeed been the case.
- As for his choice of the Nationals, Scherzer gave some further details on how the end game went down: “Of the teams that were really down to the end, the Nationals gave me the best opportunity [to win]. So because of that, that’s the recent why I told Scott [Boras] at the end, ‘Let’s just negotiate with the Nationals.'”
Here’s the latest from Detroit, where TigerFest takes place today:
- David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers, MLive.com’s James Schmehl tweets. Price said earlier this week that he would be “all ears” regarding a possible extension. He will make $19.75MM in his last season of arbitration eligibility in 2015, then can test the free agent market next winter.
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers were not one of the final bidders for new Nationals signee Max Scherzer, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. “If there was a mystery club involved, and I’m not sure there was, it was not us,” Dombrowski says.
- Dombrowski says the Tigers tried to re-sign utilityman Don Kelly, Beck tweets. Kelly signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins instead, however, because he felt he had a better chance of making the big-league team there. Again via Beck, Dombrowski says that with Kelly gone, infielders Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine will compete for the super-utility job. They’ll work on playing the outfield this spring.