Max Scherzer Rumors

Free Agent Notes: Scherzer, Aoki, Giants, Olivera, Everth

The free agent market for Max Scherzer has been anything but traditional, writes MLB.com’s Mike Bauman. As Bauman notes, the dearth of clubs that have acknowledged interest in Scherzer is particularly peculiar, as is the fact that there have been little to no leaks of serious interest. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jim Bowden (Insider required) spoke to a number of GMs, assistant GMs, managers, players and agents trying to pin down Scherzer’s market. As Bowden writes, while he often came up empty, that doesn’t necessarily mean much, as Scherzer is an ownership-level decision, and not all owners don’t always keep the front office in the loop. Beyond that, many owners consider Scherzer’s exorbitant price tag a final option of sorts and will only relent once it becomes clear that a potentially more affordable alternative — e.g. a trade for Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto — is not possible. Bowden lists the Tigers, Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Nationals, Marlins, Giants and Blue Jays as theoretical fits, noting that he doesn’t expect the latter two would make an offer. The Tigers are still the favorites in Bowden’s eyes, while multiple Yankees officials would “love” to have Scherzer (despite the club’s public and private denials). He adds that the Nationals could conceivably sign Scherzer if they move Zimmermann and/or Ian Desmond for younger pieces, knowing each has just one remaining year on his contract and has rebuffed the team’s previous efforts at working out a long-term deal.

Some more free agent notes from around the league…

  • In addition to the Braves and Orioles, the Giants are also a potential fit for outfielder Nori Aoki, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. To this point, the Giants have yet to address their left field hole and have had a largely quiet offseason — though not for lack of trying. The Giants made serious pursuits of both Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, but after missing out on each have acquired Casey McGehee via trade and re-signed Jake Peavy.
  • Speaking of the Giants‘ quiet offseason, MLB.com’s Chris Haft points out that history has shown the team is capable of adding help even as late in the offseason as mid-January. As Haft points out, both Aubrey Huff and Bengie Molina were mid-January signs back in 2010. He opines that a reunion with Ryan Vogelsong — whom Haft notes very much wants to return to San Francisco — makes so much sense that it’s surprising it hasn’t happened at this point. Though there’s some understandable frustration from Giants fans, Haft notes, there’s plenty of time for an addition or two.
  • The Athletics will be among the clubs to watch Hector Olivera‘s upcoming showcase in the Dominican Republic, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who finds a matchup between the two sides very plausible. Adding Olivera to the fold would allow the team to play Ben Zobrist in the outfield, with Marcus Semien manning shortstop and Olivera at second. Olivera, 29, still needs clearance from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and Major League Baseball before he can sign.
  • Everth Cabrera was scheduled for a readiness hearing Wednesday of this week, but his attorney has requested a continuance until March 23 due to pending trial matters in another case, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. As such, Cabrera’s jury trial is now set for April 13 (depending on the outcome of the readiness hearing). Cabrera faces up to a year in jail time if he is convicted with a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. The delay in the hearing is particularly poor news for Cabrera, who had hoped to ink a big league deal at some point this offseason.
  • Lastly, a pair of minor free agent notes: Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that the Twins never made an effort to re-sign Anthony Swarzak before he signed with Cleveland today, while MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets that the Tigers did make Andy Dirks an offer after he was non-tendered by Toronto. However, Detroit’s acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes led Dirks to return to the Blue Jays, where he felt he had a better opportunity to make the team and pick up more at-bats.

Pitching Notes: Shields, Cards, Ogando, Albers, Baker, Coke, Comebacks

As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of  Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
  • When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
  • Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
  • Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
  • Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
  • Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
  • The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.

Cardinals Exploring Top-End Starter Acquisition

The Cardinals are exploring several avenues to add a top-end arm to the top of the rotation, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report. The targets include not only free agent Max Scherzer but also trade candidates Cole Hamels of the Phillies and David Price of the Tigers.

Rosenthal and Morosi hasten to add that no deals appear to be close, and note that St. Louis could decide to hold pat with its current slate of starters if the price proves too steep. But the club’s interest reflects some level of concern that the staff will hold up as constituted, per the report.

Scherzer has local roots and could be had for nothing but money, but is expected to command quite a lot of it. The other two hurlers — both southpaws, which the FOX Sports tandem says the Cards would prefer — will obviously require more than cash commitments to acquire.

In the case of Hamels, his no-trade protection would pose no barrier as the Cardinals are not on his no-trade list. But Philadelphia would be looking for a package fronted by a young starter such as Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales, while also including a promising young outfielder like Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty. Center fielder Peter Bourjos is also a player that the Phillies have had interest in some time, per Rosenthal and Morosi.

Price, of course, represents an entirely different sort of piece. He is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and is currently under control of a win-now Detroit club. Per the report, St. Louis might pursue Price with the idea of locking him up for the long-term, based in part on the fact that he makes his offseason home in reasonable proximity (Nashville).

The Price-Scherzer dynamic also impacts things from the Tigers’ perspective, of course, and Rosenthal and Morosi say that the team has not approached Price about an extension. GM Dave Dombrowski has not been shy about dealing pitching talent in recent years, and it could be that moving Price off the books for 2015 would pave the way for a return for Scherzer. Of course, that scenario seems fairly speculative at this stage.



Free Agent Notes: Beachy, Scherzer, Angels, Beckham, Toritani

Right-hander Brandon Beachy is mulling over six offers and hopes to make a decision by Friday of this week, reports SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Beachy has thrown for seven teams over the past 10 days, according to Cotillo. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the Twins are not one of the teams with an offer out. The 28-year-old Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves in December due to the fact that he underwent his second Tommy John surgery last spring. Any club that signs Beachy to a one-year deal would have the right to control him via arbitration, though a team certainly could offer a second year option or even two guaranteed years as a means of enticing him. In 267 2/3 innings at the Major League level, Beachy has a 3.23 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 (all with the Braves).

Here are some more notes on free agents, including the top name on the market…

  • There’s no timetable on a decision for Max Scherzer, agent Scott Boras tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Boras told Beck that Scherzer is an ownership-level decision, and as Beck points out, Boras has worked out deals with Tigers owner Mike Ilitch for both Prince Fielder and Johnny Damon in years past — both of which came late in the offseason. Nonetheless, Detroit appears to have a full rotation, and their long-term payroll outlook is already questionable. I personally have a hard time envisioning a reunion between the two sides.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters tonight, including Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (Twitter link), that he isn’t pursuing any free agent pitchers, and that includes both Scherzer and James Shields. The Halos have speculatively been mentioned as fits for both, although as we’ve pointed out here in the past, that seems to be a stretch given their desire to stay beneath the luxury tax threshold.
  • DiGiovanna also notes (Twitter link) that a reunion with Gordon Beckham now looks unlikely for the Angels“We’ve built up quite a bit of infield depth,” Dipoto told reporters. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register was also on hand, and he tweets that Dipoto said the team is “playing it by ear” regarding Beckham. Fletcher, too, feels that Beckham will sign elsewhere.
  • Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani was on the Mets‘ radar briefly last month, but the team no longer has any intention of pursuing him, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. This report only further support the widespread belief that Wilmer Flores is ticketed for the Amazins’ Opening Day shortstop gig. As for Toritani, he’s been connected to the Blue Jays and Padres as well, though neither seems to have particularly serious interest at this juncture.

Rosenthal On The Yankees

For the first time in awhile, the Yankees are showing signs of youth and upside, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Per GM Brian Cashman, the club is deeper, flexible, younger, and more diverse. Rosenthal notes that Cashman is finally operating “from a position of strength,” and “no longer is in a box.” The Yankees have options moving forward besides depending on outspending the competition. Here’s more Yankees notes from Rosenthal’s column.

  • The Yankees have the prospect depth to trade for Cole Hamels if they wanted. However, Rosenthal cautions that Cashman may be reluctant to part with the depth he’s so carefully nurtured. A deal for Hamels might also start with newly acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius, which would just create a new problem to solve (arguably a more difficult problem in my opinion). The Yankees had the pieces to add Johan Santana back when the the Twins were shopping him, but they kept their prospects and spent on C.C. Sabathia the following offseason. We could be in for some deja vu, especially with next offseason’s free agent market shaping up to be pitching rich.
  • While the club can turn to free agency rather than trade for Hamels, Rosenthal thinks they would have re-signed Robinson Cano last offseason if they wanted to make a $200MM investment. For that reason, a pact with Max Scherzer might be unlikely.
  • Cashman has three surprising trades this offseason, so guessing his behavior based on history might be misleading. The club could deal from its minor league catching depth, such as John Ryan Murphy or Gary Sanchez. Others such as Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, David Carpenter, and Brett Gardner are less likely to be offered in trade talks.

West Notes: Hamilton, Rosario, Mariners

The Angels are likely to trade Josh Hamilton before his contract expires, but not before letting him play out at least part of the 2015 season, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Given Hamilton’s production (.263/.331/.414 last year) and contract, his value can’t slip much further, so the Angels might as well wait to see if they can recoup some of that value with a rebound season, Gonzalez suggests. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Hamilton has a full no-trade clause. The Angels reportedly discussed potential Hamilton deals with the Rangers and Padres this offseason, although those talks did not appear particularly likely to result in a trade. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • After reaching a deal with Nick Hundley last week, the Rockies could trade Wilin Rosario, or they could keep him and go with three catchers (Hundley, Rosario and Michael McKenry), MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. Many teams have two catchers but are reluctant to use the backup to pinch-hit, so having three would allow the Rockies to use their spare catchers more liberally. Also, they could have Rosario pick up playing time at first base or in the outfield. Harding adds that the Rockies have “checked in withMax Scherzer and James Shields this offseason, although, unsurprisingly, they’re not likely to sign either one, and they’ll likely acquire a veteran to eat innings instead.
  • Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith should form a solid platoon for the Mariners, David Golebiewski writes for GammonsDaily.com. Neither one projects to be anything special if he plays every day, but Ruggiano has a .925 OPS against lefties in the last three seasons, while Smith has an .825 OPS against righties. Those are very strong numbers (even though we should probably expect regression for Ruggiano, and it’s impossible to completely hide any batter from same-handed pitching), and the Mariners should get effective production from right field while they wait for a long-term starter to come along.

East Notes: Yankees, Braves, Howard

The Yankees are making the right moves to build their bullpen by adding inexpensive depth, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Chasen Shreve, acquired from the Braves in the Manny Banuelos deal, gives the Yankees another hard-throwing lefty to go with Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson, and David Carpenter, the Yankees’ other acquisition in that deal, should be tough on righties. Miller, of course, was very expensive, but he was one of baseball’s best relievers last season. The Braves, meanwhile, got a project in Banuelos, and they could try to continue developing him as a starter, hoping his velocity rebounds after missing most of 2012 and all of 2013 due to injury. Here are more notes from the East divisions.


Giants Out On Shields, Scherzer; Pursuing Zobrist

The Giants are out of the hunt for free agent starter James Shields, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter). San Francisco never was in on Max Scherzer, and that remains the case, per the report.

But while an impact free agent arm is not in the offing, the team is still “trying to work a deal” to land outstanding utilityman Ben Zobrist from the Rays. A recent report from Peter Gammons had suggested that match on the veteran, who could potentially plug in at left field for the Giants while serving as a key depth piece throughout the infield. Always a potential piece of trade bait, the pending free agent became a more obvious target when Tampa agreed to terms with Asdrubal Cabrera.

GM Brian Sabean said recently that his organization has limited financial flexibility after re-signing Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo. It appeared at that time that the club would be choosing between a significant addition in the outfield against one in the rotation, and today’s report suggests that San Francisco is perhaps more focused on its lineup.

It would, perhaps, be foolish at this point to rule out entirely the possibility of more aggressive spending given the team’s recent World Series windfall. But the club already appears set to exceed last year’s payroll, and an attempt at two significant additions would bring it well past historical levels, if not even within sight of the luxury tax line.


Quick Hits: Williams, Viciedo, Scherzer, Rangers, Mets

It’s been a little over two years since the Marlins and Blue Jays completed the mega-trade that sent $163.75MM in major league veterans north of the border for a bundle of prospect joy. The Marlins were roasted for the decision at the time, but it’s looking wiser by the day, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Not only did the move clear much needed payroll (since used on Giancarlo Stanton), it also accounts for a lot of the top talent in the organization. In addition to Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Justin Nicolino, the Fish netted seven more players using pieces traced to the original trade with the Jays.

  • Brewers prospect Devin Williams is now represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Williams was the Brewers second round pick in 2013, and Heyman adds he’s one of Milwaukee’s top 10 prospects. Williams, 19, pitched to a 4.48 ERA with 8.95 K/9 and 2.71 BB/9 in the rookie level Pioneer League.
  • The White Sox are still looking into trading outfielder Dayan Viciedo, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Needs include bullpen and bench depth.
  • The ongoing Max Scherzer saga could greatly affect the Tigers in 2015, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. Per Beck, the Tigers are likely to let Scherzer walk if another club shows heavy interest. If he continues to float on the market as he is now, there will be increasing pressure to bring him back. Owner Mike Illich is known for his penchant to reward players who have performed well in Detroit.
  • Left field is an obvious hole for the Rangers, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. The internal candidates are Michael Choice, Ryan Rua, and Jake Smolinski, but don’t be surprised if additional depth is added. The club is also expected to add a catcher to compete with Robinson Chirinos.
  • Shortstop continues to be a glaring flaw on the Mets roster, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Last year, the club was unsuccessful upgrading over Ruben Tejada. This time, Wilmer Flores is the guy on the hot seat, with Tejada still in the picture too. My own take: unless the Mets can pinch Troy Tulowitzki, they’ll enter the season with Flores and Tejada. In the grand scheme of major league shortstops, neither projects to be terrible. Meanwhile, if they wanted Stephen Drew, they’ve had plenty of opportunities to acquire him over the last 14 months.

Quick Hits: Molina, Porcello, Scherzer

Jose Molina is the “Strangest But Truest Man Of The Year,” writes Jayson Stark of ESPN. Last season, Molina was the first player aged 39 or older since Ricky Henderson to record more stolen bases than extra base hits in a season. Of course, while Henderson swiped 36 against 20 extra base knocks, Molina managed just three and two respectively. Check out Stark’s post to learn more strange but true facts about Molina and others.

  • Buster Olney, writing for ESPN Insider (subscription required), evaluated 11 players and managers at a career crossroad. Among them was new Red Sox hurler Rick Porcello, whose performance in media hungry Boston will set the stage for his first foray into free agency. The former Tiger is a command and control specialist with a career 4.30 ERA. Last season was his best, with a 3.43 ERA and strong peripherals. A repeat performance will presage a tidy payday.
  • Top free agent Max Scherzer is a potential fit for 11 clubs, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. Justice describes the use case for each potential. From my own perspective, none of the potential fits is particularly compelling. Either budget or need seemingly provides a barrier. Still, if history has taught us anything, somebody is going to pay for Scherzer. Even if they’re bidding against the Mystery Team.