Max Scherzer Rumors

Central Notes: Brewers, Aviles, Scherzer

Scouting director Ray Montgomery has left the Diamondbacks to becomes special assistant to the general manager and vice president in charge of scouting for the Brewers, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. It’s a significant hire for the Brewers — Piecoro notes that Montgomery is widely considered to be very promising, and that he interviewed for the Padres’ open GM job months ago. Montgomery worked with the Brewers before the Diamondbacks hired him in 2010. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • The Indians exercised Mike Aviles‘ option in part because they would like top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor to get more time at Triple-A Columbus, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Lindor earned a promotion to Columbus last season but only collected 180 regular season plate appearances there. With Lindor in the minors, Jose Ramirez will start at shortstop, with Aviles backing up Ramirez and second baseman Jason Kipnis. Pluto feels Aviles would have trade value if Lindor earned a promotion more quickly than the Indians anticipate.
  • Tigers ace Max Scherzer could receive a seven-year, $175MM contract to top this offseason’s free agent market, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, projecting salaries for ten top free agents. Sherman notes that his guess on Scherzer might be low, but that Masahiro Tanaka‘s 2014 season with the Yankees demonstrates the kinds of uncertainties that often accompany big-money investments in pitchers.

Tigers Make Qualifying Offer To Scherzer, Martinez; Outright Kelly, Reed

The Tigers announced that they have extended one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to impending free agents Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez. Additionally, the team announced that utility man Don Kelly and right-hander Evan Reed have been outrighted off the 40-man roster. The Tigers also announced that they have selected the contract of outfielder Wynton Bernard, adding him to the 40-man roster.

That Scherzer and Martinez — two of the top 10 free agents in the Majors — received qualifying offers comes as little surprise. Each should be in high demand this offseason, and by extending the QO, the Tigers assure themselves of receiving a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round for each player, should he sign elsewhere as a free agent.

The 34-year-old Kelly has been with the Tigers in a utility capacity since 2009 and has posted a .234/.297/.340 in 1157 plate appearances with Detroit in that time. Kelly has seen time at every position on the diamond, including catcher and pitcher, in his career, although his lone experience at shortstop came with the Pirates in 2007 — his only Major League stint that came in a uniform other than that of the Detroit Tigers.

Reed, 28, pitched to a 4.18 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 32 1/3 innings for the Tigers this season, and he posted similar numbers in 24 1/3 inning sample size a year prior. That Reed would clear waivers is a mild surprise, given his 96 mph average fastball velocity and fairly solid 3.78 FIP, 3.89 xFIP and 3.51 SIERA marks in addition to his 4.20 ERA. He can become a minor league free agent now by refusing his outright assignment.


Dombrowski On Tigers’ Offseason Plans

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed a number of points with the media yesterday, and Jason Beck of MLB.com provides a transcript of his comments. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Dombrowski listed the team’s top three priorities. First among them is deciding on an approach in center, which he said could either mean finding a platoon partner for the right-handed hitting Rajai Davis or going with a new, full-time option. Second: improving the bullpen, with some new arms potentially coming from within. And finally, the team wants to add another left-handed bat in some capacity. The GM rejected the notion that the club’s contention window is closing, saying he has confidence in its veteran core.
  • Explaining that he is more concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion issues on a human level than in terms of planning, Dombrowski said that he is confident in the team’s situation behind the plate. He expects Avila to be able to man the position next year, but also likes prospect James McCann as a long-term piece.
  • Dombrowski said that he does not know whether Torii Hunter will retire. If he elects to play, the club values his clubhouse presence immensely but has yet to make any decisions as to whether it would pursue him in free agency. Dombrowski also discussed prospect Steven Moya, who could be a long-term replacement for Hunter. “I don’t know if he’s going to be ready or not,” Dombrowski said of Moya. “You can hope and he may be ready, but I’m not really sure. His performance in the Arizona Fall League, then going to winter ball will be important for him.”
  • Soon-to-be free agent starter Max Scherzer appears set to test the market, and Dombrowski did nothing to curb the idea that he could be headed for a new team. “Well, we had thorough conversations before the season, and I don’t know that it’s all dictated by us at this point,” said Dombrowski. “I think we made ourselves pretty well known at the time where we stood. … I think we probably made more of an effort to sign Max earlier in the year. So I don’t think your odds improve [from] what they were earlier. Why would they improve if we have one-on-one ability to speak with you, compared to having 29 other clubs speak with you? Only time will tell.”
  • In terms of a possible replacement in the rotation, Dombrowski said the team has internal options and may not feel the need to add an arm via free agency. “I think we have some young pitchers we feel pretty comfortable with at this point,” said Dombrowski, “… but I feel comfortable staying internal with the four guys we would have at that point. But again, we haven’t made that decision.”
  • The prognosis on shortstop Jose Iglesias is positive, says Dombrowski. Though he will allow manager Brad Ausmus a chance to evaluate him in the spring, the GM says that he expects Iglesias to take the everyday job “if he returns to the form of the past.” On the other hand, Dombrowski said the team needs to be prepared if Iglesias is not at full strength.
  • Detroit’s closer situation will probably not undergo changes over the offseason, said Dombrowski. Joe Nathan will likely have the ninth inning job going into the year, but will need to “perform up to the capabilities required” to keep it. Elsewhere in the relief corps, young power reliever Bruce Rondon, who underwent Tommy John surgery, is expected to be ready for the year, says Dombrowski.


Tigers Notes: Price, Miller, V-Mart, Martin

In the wake of another postseason disappointment for the Tigers, “there’s the underlying question whether this could be the end of an era,” MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes.  Several key members of the roster will hit free agency, including Max Scherzer, though the 2013 Cy Young Award winner said “I do hope I’m back. I love this clubhouse, love everybody in here, been to battle with these guys for five years. It would mean a lot to me.”

Here’s the latest from the Motor City…

  • If Scherzer doesn’t return, the natural next step for the Tigers would be to pursue an extension with David Price, though the southpaw naturally wasn’t concerned with his contract in the wake of the painful ALDS sweep.  “That’s out of my control. That’s the last thing that’s on my mind right now. I’m not worried about that,” Price told reporters, including Mlive.com’s Chris Iott.  Price has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting the free agent market after the 2015 season.
  • The Tigers’ failure to acquire Andrew Miller at the trade deadline may have been the turning point of their season, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes.  Miller could’ve been prevented the bullpen meltdowns that plagued the Tigers in the ALDS, but instead, he ended up stifling Detroit in two late-game appearances for the Orioles.  The Tigers came very close to closing a deal Miller at the deadline but the Red Sox instead sent the lefty to Baltimore in exchange for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.
  • A rival official recently told ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) that he thinks the Tigers will do whatever it takes to re-sign Victor Martinez, as “considering the Tigers’ win-at-all-costs approach and Martinez’s importance in the Detroit lineup, he cannot see them being outbid.”  Olney lists five other teams as possible fits for Martinez in free agency, and three are from the AL Central.
  • Also from Olney’s piece, he lists the Tigers as a potential suitor for Russell Martin.  The free agent catcher could be “a plan B” if the Tigers are concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion history and want a change behind the plate.

AL Notes: Scherzer, Yankees, Red Sox

In the latest sign of the game’s financial health, Maury Brown writes for Forbes that local baseball broadcasts have generally dominated prime-time television viewership.

Here’s the latest out of the American League:

  • Soon-to-be free agent Max Scherzer of the Tigers reportedly passed on the chance to ink a six-year, $144MM extension with the Tigers, and that decision could hurt him in spite of his strong performance, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The current market features top-end trade options, plenty of mid-tier free agents, and a generally depressed offensive environment, Sherman notes.
  • Though the Yankees have not been tied strongly to high-end starting pitching, Scherzer could remain a highly appealing option, opines Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. If New York decides to make a splashy acquisition, Martino says the odds are it will be Scherzer.
  • The Red Sox will be looking for a new hitting coach, as incumbent Greg Colbrunn will not return, as the team announced today. The 45-year-old, who was in his second season on the job, missed a stretch of time over the summer after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

D’Backs Notes: Roster, Gardenhire, Payroll, Coaches

The Diamondbacks more or less kicked off their offseason last week when they announced the hiring of Dave Stewart as general manager and De Jon Watson as vice president of baseball operations. That duo, along with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, will be tasked with righting the ship for a team that lost an MLB-worst 98 games in 2014. Both Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic have authored highly informative columns about how things will shake out this offseason after talking with that group. Here are some highlights from the Republic’s scribes, but each piece is full of lengthier quotes and is well worth reading in its entirety…

  • It’s tough to get a read on Stewart at this point, Piecoro writes, as the new GM expressed a desire to add a front-of-the-rotation arm but expressed hesitancy toward the free agent market and toward the trade market. Stewart appears to be more conservative than predecessor Kevin Towers on the trade front, according to Piecoro, and as for free agency, both Stewart and Watson doubted the team would have the resources to pursue Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields.
  • A trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher doesn’t seem likely either, Piecoro writes. He quotes Stewart: “We’re going to try to maintain our minor-league system. We’ve got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we’ll look at it if it makes sense, but it’s not likely.”
  • La Russa tells Piecoro that when it comes to a manager, the team is looking for a candidate that can “lead and inspire.” Previous managerial experience sounded important to La Russa, who stated, “…when you start managing the game, the more that you’ve pulled the trigger as a manager somewhere, there is an art to that.” Asked specifically about recently dismissed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, La Russa said he is “sure” that Gardenhire’s name will come up during their search.
  • La Russa also touched on payroll, though his answer when asked for a specific figure was nebulous; payroll could fall anywhere between $80-110MM, he stated, depending on whether or not there is value to be found, per Piecoro.
  • Shifting to Buchanan’s piece, La Russa said that there may not be many changes to the team’s coaching staff beyond the firings of Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. La Russa offered particularly high praise for first base coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — the latter two of whom he feels handled Arizona’s slew of injuries well. Roving pitching instructor Dave Duncan, La Russa’s former pitching coach, will take on a bigger role in the organization but will not return to a coaching position.
  • Buchanan spoke with Stewart on the team’s outfield situation. While Towers had expressed the desire to add an outfield bat, Stewart sounds much less inclined to do so. “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.” La Russa spoke on the outfield as well, adding praise for Ender Inciarte.
  • The D’Backs have yet to address their desire to incorporate analytics into their front office, but Stewart again repeated that it is a priority for the team. “…We’ve got to go through the process of trying to get the right person in to take over that department for us,” he said.

Rosenthal On Scherzer, Braves, Melvin

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:

  • Gossip within baseball suggests that James Shields will likely go the Red Sox this offseason, with Jon Lester heading to the Cubs. That could leave a variety of teams competing for Max Scherzer, with agent Scott Boras “waiting it out,” as he often does to try to get teams to meet his price.
  • If the Braves decide to part ways with Frank Wren this offseason, they could promote assistant GM John Coppolella to the GM position and have senior advisor John Hart serve as Coppolella’s mentor. Rosenthal also suggests the possibility that the Braves could bring back Royals GM Dayton Moore. (We noted earlier today that the Braves could make front office changes this offseason.)
  • Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers could be on the hot seat this offseason, but Bob Melvin of the Athletics likely will not be, Rosenthal says.

Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

AL Notes: Angels, Tigers, Baker

The Angels, who have reportedly run into difficulties in their negotiations for a new deal to extend the team’s lease in Anaheim, are discussing potential alternative sites in two other California locations, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times: Tustin and, most recently, Irvine. A 2016 opt-out of the team’s current lease is looming in the near future.

  • In his podcast today (audio link), ESPN.com’s Buster Olney touched on several topics relating to the Tigers. Club GM Dave Dombrowski, joining for an interview, said that he is still looking internally first for bullpen solutions, calling it “a little early for clubs to be making trades at this time.”
  • Dombrowski also talked about Robbie Ray, the key piece acquired in the Doug Fister trade. He indicated that Detroit’s evaluators seemingly placed a higher value on Ray than did other teams around the league, saying that Ray “projects to be at least a number-three starter.” Though the club does not expect him to reach that level (let alone his potential ceiling) during his first call-up, Dombrowski said that Ray has thrown well enough at Triple-A to earn a chance to fill in at the big league level.
  • Discussing the Tigers’ reported $144MM extension offer that Max Scherzer declined with fellow ESPN analyst Keith Law, Olney noted that many players and agents he has spoken with felt they would have taken the deal. But the calculating Scherzer — who, in Olney’s opinion, may be the “pitcher’s version of Joey Votto” in terms of his incorporation of statistical analysis into his game — apparently determined that he will hold a good enough hand to warrant the risk of waiting for free agency.
  • Starter Scott Baker has not elected his opt-out clause with the Rangers, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com, after apparently not finding a major league opportunity elsewhere. If he finds such a chance, however, Baker will be able to opt out at that time, Cotillo adds.

AL Notes: Lester, Middlebrooks, Tigers, Royals, Astros

The retirements of Yankee icon Derek Jeter and Commissioner Bud Selig and the Red Sox's quest to repeat as World Series champions are baseball's top storylines this season, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera debate also makes Cafardo's list along with five other topics to monitor in 2014. Stoking the discussion, the dynamic duo both agreed to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions just one day apart this past week: six years, $144.5MM for Trout and eight years, $248MM for Cabrera

In other news and notes from the American League:

  • Within the same article, Cafardo opines Jon Lester better be willing to accept less from the Red Sox than the six-year, $144MM proposal the Tigers made to Max Scherzer adding negotiations with the left-hander will be a true test of how much faith the club has in its top pitching prospects.
  • Lester addressed the media today, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (who provides a transcript of the extension-related portion of the presser) and contrasted his situation to Scherzer's. "Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it'€™s there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we'€™ll deal with that when it comes.
  • Contact lenses could be the key to the season for Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. An eye test this spring revealed Middlebrooks' vision had deteriorated to 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. "For everyday life, you’d never correct it," the 25-year-old said. "But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
  • Pitching and offense are reasons why the Red Sox can repeat while history (no team has sucessfully defended its World Series title since 2000) and questions up the middle are reasons why they won't, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam
  • Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he had the financial wherewithal to extend both Cabrera and Scherzer. "We had both negotiations going simultaneously," said Dombrowski. "We were trying to sign both."
  • The Royals have had mixed results with their philsophy of developing pitchers, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The organization believes you need 10 pitching prospects to deliver one to the Majors and that has worked in developing relievers, but only four prospects have started a game for Kansas City during GM Dayton Moore's seven-year tenure, McCullough notes.
  • The Astros have been active at the Trade Deadline the past two seasons, but that may not be the case this year, writes the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. "No question. This year's different," GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich. "This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we're likely to keep them as opposed to move them. There’s always going to be that temptation…we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress."