Max Scherzer Rumors

Tigers Notes: Cabrera, Paulino, Verlander

Happy birthday to former Tigers outfielder Chet Lemon, who turns 59 years old today.  Lemon, the 22nd overall pick of the 1972 draft, spent his first seven seasons with the White Sox before he was traded to Tigers prior to the 1982 season.  "Chet The Jet" went on to be a staple in the Detroit outfield for the next nine seasons, hitting a solid .263/.349/.437 with 142 homers in 1203 games as a Tiger and earning himself a ring as part of the 1984 World Series championship team.

Here's the latest from Motown…

  • Miguel Cabrera told reporters (including MLB.com's Jason Beck) that he hasn't talked to his agents about contract extension talks with the Tigers, though the two-time AL MVP isn't concerned given that he still has two years remaining on his current deal.
  • Catcher Ronny Paulino has been suspended for 100 games after testing positive for exogenous testosterone, Major League Baseball announced.  Paulino was originally acquired by the Tigers from the Orioles last August and Detroit re-signed the veteran backstop to a minor league deal in November.  This is the second PED suspension for Paulino, who was suspended for 50 games spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons.  He last played in the Majors in 2012, appearing in 20 games with Baltimore.
  • Justin Verlander isn't planning on talking fellow ace Max Scherzer into remaining with the Tigers once his contract is up.  "Max is his own guy….He’s going to make his own decisions, but I don’t think I need to be a recruiter," Verlander told reporters, including Beck.  "I think from what he’s been saying, he’s made it loud and clear that that he wants to stay in Detroit….I think what this organization has done has recruited him — not just the players here. I think he enjoys being part of this team."  Verlander also discussed such topics as the Tigers' offseason moves and the rise of salaries across baseball during his chat with the media.

Bowden’s Latest: Free Agency, Scherzer, Drew, Lobaton

Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio spoke with multiple agents and executives over the weekend and got contradictory takes on the reasons for so many top free agents remaining unsigned (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Agents told Bowden that they (and the MLBPA) feel that the heightened media coverage resulting from social networking has damaged players' market values. Reports from media members about how teams value players and whether or not they've made offers to players could be violations of the CBA, those parties told Bowden. Meanwhile, executives said to Bowden that the market is simply full of players with baggage (draft pick compensation, PED usage, inconsistent performance) and added that agents entered the offseason with unnatural expectations for their clients.

Here are just some of the highlights from a jam-packed column from the former Nationals and Reds GM…

  • Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two most likely candidates from next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers to sign an extension, Bowden writes. Despite the fact that Scherzer is a Scott Boras client (Boras prefers his clients to test the open market), Scherzer seems to want to remain loyal to the Tigers. However, Bowden notes that an extension would still need to be somewhere close to Scherzer's market value, which Bowden pegs at a whopping $196MM over seven years.
  • The Red Sox have made a two-year offer to Stephen Drew, one source told Bowden. The value of that reported offer is unclear, as is the date on which it was made.
  • The Nationals have discussed Jose Lobaton trades with the Rays as they look to add a backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. Lobaton figures to be expendable for the Rays, as they project to have a strong defensive tandem of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina behind the dish. Shedding Lobaton's $950K salary would seem to be more beneficial to the tight-budgeted Rays than most teams, particularly if they don't have a roster spot for him.
  • The Dodgers are pushing for an infielder over another starting pitcher and hope to have a deal done within the next 48 hours. Los Angeles isn't likely to bid on any of the remaining free agent starters unless they're willing to take a short-term deal, as Dan Haren did to play near his hometown.
  • Kendrys Morales is the most likely free agent to be this year's version of Kyle Lohse, writes Bowden. He notes that the Orioles — who still have about $15MM to spend — and Mariners remain interested in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client. Both are still in on Nelson Cruz as well. MLBTR readers seem to agree with the Morales/Lohse comparison; in the poll I conducted earlier this morning asking which Top 50 free agent would be the next to sign, he drew the fewest votes.
  • The Royals and Indians are both highly unlikely to be able to lure back their respective free agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Blue Jays are a likely landing spot for both pitchers.

Scherzer Hopes To Reach Extension With Tigers

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."



Central Notes: Scherzer, Cubs, Cardinals

Max Scherzer of the Tigers is one potential beneficiary of Clayton Kershaw's huge new contract, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. Now that Kershaw has signed, Scherzer and Jon Lester become the top 2014-2015 free agent pitchers. Scherzer obviously isn't likely to top Kershaw's $215MM total, but the prospect of hitting the free-agent market probably just became even more attractive for Scherzer, which should make it even tougher for the Tigers to first sign him long-term. Scherzer and the Tigers recently agreed on a one-year deal worth $15.525MM for 2014, avoiding arbitration. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Theo Epstein says the Cubs aren't through making moves this offseason, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. The team has an offer pending with Masahiro Tanaka, and would like to get another pitcher even if Tanaka signs elsewhere.
  • Former pitcher Chris Carpenter is set to join the Cardinals' front office, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. The two parties appear to have agreed on Carpenter's role, but he does not yet seem to have an official title. He will be involved in scouting, and will participate in big-league spring training in some capacity.
  • The Cardinals and Matt Carpenter could discuss an extension in spring training, but are not likely to reach a deal anytime soon, Goold notes.

Tigers Avoid Arbitration With Max Scherzer

The Tigers and 2013 American League Cy Young Winner Max Scherzer have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $15.525MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Scherzer is represented by agent Scott Boras.

Scherzer and Boras were able to parlay his 2013 success into a massive $8.8MM raise — a whopping 130 percent raise on last year's salary and nearly $2MM more than the $13.6MM projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. As Swartz noted in his Arbitration Breakdown piece on Scherzer, the previous record raise for a pitcher with five-plus years of service time was Carlos Zambrano's $5.9MM raise back in 2007. Scherzer's $8.8MM pay increase shatters that mark and isn't likely to be touched at any point in the near future. With David Price having settled at $14MM and Clayton Kershaw having inked a historic extension, Scherzer seems to be a lock to take home the biggest one-year payday among arb-eligible players this offseason.

This is Scherzer's final season before heading into free agency, and one would think that another elite campaign would put him and Boras in position to try to top CC Sabathia's record-setting $161MM free agent contract that still stands as the largest open-market contract ever signed by a pitcher.

Scherzer is fresh off a dominant season in which he pitched to a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 36.3 percent ground-ball rate in a career-high 214 1/3 innings. Some will argue that his Cy Young award was due to his gaudy 21-3 record, but Scherzer's 6.4 fWAR trailed only Clayton Kershaw, and his 6.7 rWAR was right in line with Hisashi Iwakuma (7.0) and Chris Sale (6.9) among American League starting pitchers.

Heyman reports that in spite of settling on a one-year agreement, the Tigers still have hopes of extending Scherzer and teammate Miguel Cabrera (Twitter link).


Quick Hits: Free Agents, Scherzer, Papelbon, Mulder

With Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana all in seeming free agent limbo after rejecting qualifying offers, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan argues that the current free agent compensation system has proven to be too limiting.  While teams will give up draft picks to sign bigger stars like Robinson Cano, the so-called second tier of free agents are finding it much harder to get work.  "Last offseason, there were a number of guys affected in ways different than we expected compared to a freer market to pursue jobs.  It appears that's happening again, " MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said.  One club executive suggested to Passan that teams could make qualifying offers to more free agents next winter given the evidence about how it pushes prices down for some players.

Here's some more from around baseball…

  • The Tigers have recently made several important moves in the post-Christmas offseason period, and 2014's big early-year move could be laying the groundwork for a Max Scherzer extension, MLB.com's Jason Beck opines.  Beck thinks GM Dave Dombrowski will look to a one-year deal for 2014 to avoid going to arbitration with Scherzer, and those talks could lead to negotiations with agent Scott Boras over a longer-term extension.
  • Also from Beck, he wonders if the Tigers could discuss a new contract with Miguel Cabrera (signed through 2015) or possibly add another reliever to the bullpen.  Detroit has already addressed its main bullpen need by signing closer Joe Nathan, and also acquired Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain for the relief corps.
  • Jonathan Papelbon discussed his name surfacing in recent trade rumors, the differences between the Phillies' and Red Sox clubhouse atmospheres and his joy at seeing his ex-Boston teammates win the World Series last October in a frank radio interview with Rob Bradford and John McDonald on WEEI's Hot Stove Show.  A partial transcript of the interview is available at WEEI.com.
  • The Phillies were interested in Mark Mulder before the veteran signed with the Angels, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).
  • Forbes Magazine's Maury Brown discusses Major League Baseball's growing revenues and the effect on player salaries and acquisitions in a podcast with BostInno's Alex Reimer, who has a partial transcript of the interview here.
  • MLB.com's Anthony DiComo covers a number of Mets-related topics as part of a reader mailbag, including how he doesn't see Dee Gordon or Didi Gregorius as logical trade targets for the team.

Central Notes: Cubs, Hernandez, Tigers, Hart

The latest out of the AL and NL Central..

  • The Cubs are among the teams with interest in Roberto Hernandez, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin says that he'll look for a true first baseman to replace Corey Hart, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (on Twitter). "I'd like to find a first baseman who can play first. We've had so many guys who haven't played first," said the GM.
  • The Brewers topped out around $8MM for Hart, according to Haudricourt (on Twitter).
  • Cubs president Theo Epstein says the club has offers out to a free agent starter, a free agent offer, and a trade offer for a hitter, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Theo added that he has other trade talks taking place as well.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says he's never had a conversation with the Dodgers about Matt Kemp, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com.  
  • Dombrowski also noted that the Tigers haven't ruled out signing Max Scherzer this offseason, tweets John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
  • After initially being caught off guard by the trade, Adam Eaton says he's confident and ready for a fresh start with the White Sox, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.

Latest On Max Scherzer

11:14am: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports offers a different take (on Twitter), as sources have indicated to him that Scherzer is "definitely in play." While nothing is imminent, says Passan, teams are aware that Scherzer can be had.

7:15am: The Tigers are telling teams they're not optimistic about completing a contract extension with Max Scherzer, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (Twitter link). However, despite the fact that Scherzer is a year away from free agency, Detroit has no plans to deal him, Stark adds.

The Tigers' plans to keep Scherzer come as no real surprise, given the fact that the team fully expects to contend again this season. Similarly, considering the reigning Cy Young winner is a Scott Boras client, a long-term extension prior to free agency would be a long shot. In the wake of last month's Prince Fielder trade, GM Dave Dombrowski suggested the savings might make an extension for Scherzer more "possible," but stopped short of calling a new deal "probable."

Scherzer is slated to earn about $13.6MM in arbitration for 2014, according to Matt Swartz's projection model.


Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski On Trade, Scherzer

The Tigers didn't just get a talented second baseman in exchange for Prince Fielder, they got a whole lot of money (an estimated $76MM) to spend elsewhere.  The question now becomes, what will they do with their new found financial flexibility?  I asked Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski if the trade could lead to a long-term deal for star pitcher Max Scherzer.

"It makes it perhaps more possible.  As we've talked about in the past, we have a lot of stars on our club, They're well paid stars and under any circumstances, even with an owner like Mike Ilitch, you can only be in a position where you have so many of those types of players," Dombrowski told reporters on this evening's conference call.  "Does it make it probable?  I can''t say that.  But it makes it more possible going forward."

As Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained in his conference call earlier this evening, Dombrowski said that the deal came together at lightning speed with the first serious phone call taking place Tuesday afternoon.  However, it would seem that the wheels started turning for the Tigers front office earlier than that.  Dombrowski said that the Rangers made it clear at the GM Meetings that they were more interested in trading Ian Kinsler than fellow second baseman Jurickson Profar and were looking for a middle-of-the-order bat.

The arrival of Kinsler and the departure of Fielder will lead to a lot of change in the Detroit infield.  While Dombrowski isn't exactly sure who will go where – Miguel Cabrera, he says, isn't a lock to go to first base in 2014 – Omar Infante is almost certainly out of the picture.  However, even without the trade, it sounds like Infante was destined to change uniforms anyway.

"In Infante's case, I can't say 100%, but with the acquisition of Kinsler, we're not in a position to add a second baseman … that was most likely the case before [anyway] because we were looking to go younger with Hernan Perez," said the Tigers GM.

Kinsler will man second base, but for how long?  When asked if the 31-year-old can play the position for years to come, Dombrowski sounded optimistic about his ability to maintain his first step and range.  He acknowledged that it could be an issue that is revisited down the line, but Kinsler figures to stay at second base for "the next couple years or maybe longer."

With the trade talks happening in less time than it takes to plan a weekend vacation, some elements were rushed.  Dombrowski got the greenlight from Ilitch Wednesday afternoon and it didn't sound as though it was a lengthy conversation.  Dombrowski also wanted to get the chance to chat with Fielder as the deal was being completed, but he didn't get the opportunity.  Fielder is on vacation in the Bahamas and was away from his phone when Dombrowski called to let him know the trade was official.  With a full voicemail inbox, the two wound up exchanging texts with Dombrowski thanking him for his time in Detroit and wishing him the best in Arlington.


Quick Hits: Tigers, Napoli, Rangers, Rays

An interesting study by Conor Glassey for his website examines which states big leaguers in the past five years were drafted from. As expected, the warm-weather states of California, Florida and Texas dominate the rankings, together accounting for more than 40 percent of drafted players. However, Illinois high schools were found to be surprisingly productive in developing future big leaguers. Let's round up the latest from around baseball:

  • Buster Olney runs through Max Scherzer rumors in a video for ESPN, concluding that he will "almost certainly not be" traded this winter. The Tigers are in full win-now mode, and other teams are unlikely to surrender major talent for this year's AL Cy Young winner, as he's not expected to sign a long-term extension with Scott Boras as his agent. Scherzer, who's on track to hit free agency after next season, is projected to earn $13.6MM in his final season of arbitration by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
  • Rick Porcello is "expected" to be traded, Olney says in the same video.
  • The avascular necrosis in Mike Napoli's hips has come up in discussions with some clubs, agent Brian Grieper said in an interview with WEEI, but other teams don't consider it an issue. WEEI's Alex Speier notes that Grieper opted not to disclose whether the first baseman had received a multi-year offer yet.
  • T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com becomes the latest writer to report that Masahiro Tanaka isn't a top target for the Rangers. Offense is more of a priority for Texas this winter, Sullivan writes.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times previews the Rays' potential targets in trade and free agency this offseason. At first base, the Mets' Ike Davis might be an option, along with Logan Morrison of the Marlins, Mitch Moreland of the Rangers, and another Met, Lucas Duda. In free agency, the Rays could attempt to court Corey HartLyle Overbay or Justin Morneau. Topkin also examines possibilities at catcher and closer.