Max Scherzer Rumors

AL Central Notes: Royals, Hughes, Tigers, Bauer

Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet interviewed Royals GM Dayton Moore about the team's playoff hopes, his offseason moves and the difficulty of making trades. Asked about the tough decision to part with Wil Myers, Moore said the focus in trades has to be on what is acquired rather than what is given up: "If you focus on what you’re losing, you’ll never make a deal. You’ll be paralyzed. You have to focus on what you’re getting in return and that’s what we focused on."

More items pertaining to the Royals and the AL Central…

  • ESPN's Jerry Crasnick also looks at the Royals' high expectations, talking about the team's acquisition of Shields and the heavy emphasis placed on defense. Moore makes it clear to the club's scouts that he wants players with the discipline to focus for nine innings and the ability to continue to prioritize defense even in the midst of slumps at the plate. Shields and manager Ned Yost both spoke about this emphasis. Crasnick also discussed the turnaround of some of the team's young hitters with last year's interim hitting coach and Hall of Famer George Brett.
  • Phil Hughes tells Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that he's enjoying his transition to a new team after a "nightmare" season with the Yankees in 2013. Hughes, who has become fast friends with Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, says he enjoys the laid-back atmosphere. Now sporting a beard, Hughes feels that back pain that cost him most of Spring Training last season likely contributed to his struggles. Minnesota, of course, gambled on Hughes' youth and pedigree by signing him to a three-year, $24MM deal this offseason that was far larger than most had expected for the 27-year-old.
  • Chris Iott of MLive.com answered reader questions and offered his take on the chances of Max Scherzer inking an extension prior to Opening Day. Iott pegs the chances of a long-term deal for the 2013 Cy Young winner at about 10 percent, noting that he simply can't envision it realistically happening.
  • Also of note from Iott is that the Tigers are fully committed to using Drew Smyly as a starter. Iott writes that the club won't be making any last-minute additions of a veteran starter and expect the left-handed Smyly to be in their rotation for a long time.
  • Iott also spoke with manager Brad Ausmus about trade acquisition Robbie Ray. Detroit's new skipper told him that Ray, acquired from the Nationals in the Doug Fister trade, has a deceptive delivery that allows his fastball to play up a couple of miles per hour. Ausmus anticipates Ray getting a lot of foul balls on fastballs up in the zone, believing that hitters will have a tough time keeping up with the pitch.
  • The Tigers announced that non-roster invitee Eduardo Sanchez suffered an olecranon stress fracture of his right elbow and will miss an extended period of time. The former Cardinals setup man inked a minor league deal with Detroit in January and was vying for a spot in their bullpen.
  • Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Indians know Trevor Bauer probably isn't ready for the Majors, which is what prompted their late signing of Aaron Harang to serve as depth. Bauer has altered his delivery somewhat and got mixed results in yesterday's game against the Reds.

AL Central Notes: Scherzer, Shields, Indians

Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer reiterates that he won't negotiate an extension once the season starts, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press writes. "This can be a major distraction," Scherzer says. "I understand I have a chance to secure my future here with the team. I want that to happen. But at the same time, I’m not going to drag negotiations out into the season." Scherzer would not say whether he and his agent, Scott Boras, are currently negotiating a deal with the Tigers. Here are more notes from the AL Central.

  • James Shields of the Royals is heading into his last season before what should be a hefty free-agent payday, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports. "I’d definitely say he’s a $20 million (per season) guy," says one AL executive. Along with Scherzer and Homer Bailey, Shields will headline the 2014-2015 class of starting pitching. The Royals aren't ruling out extending Shields, but it will be tricky for them to retain him. "If they keep him, it’ll be a bit of a revelation over there," says the executive.
  • After a quiet offseason, the Indians seem to be hoping the team can take a step forward with newcomer David Murphy and with better performances from returning players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Michael BournPaul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Hoynes also notes that the Indians have not had contact with Ubaldo Jimenez's agent since last month.

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.