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Max Scherzer Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 Hart, Lyle Overbay or Justin Morneau. Topkin also examines possibilities at catcher and closer.
We've heard a lot today on the Twins' interest in acquiring starting pitching, with two of the market's top arms — Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza — both being mentioned as realistic targets. The club is willing to hand out as many as five years in a deal with a starter, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports via Twitter. Minnesota is definitely interested in both Nolasco and Garza, he adds, though that isn't to say it would necessarily go to five years on either or both. Here's more on the starting pitching in baseball's central divisions:
- Though he says he understands the business logic that could force him to be traded, Tigers ace (and newly-minted Cy Young winner) Max Scherzer told MLB Network's Jim Bowden (on SiriusXM) that he hopes that does not occur. Scherzer said that he and agent Scott Boras had indicated to Detroit that he was "open to" an extension, but acknowledged that "no actual dialogue has been talked or anything like that." Ultimately, said Scherzer, he will "see how the business game works out and whether or not we go down that path."
- Meanwhile, Boras acknowledged that GM Dave Dombrowski would likely "invite a number of people to come in and look at all of his diamonds," referring to Detroit's most attractive trade assets. "But in the end I don't think Dave is in the business of anything other than what Mr. Illitch's goal is, and that is to win a world championship," Boras continued. As he further explained, Dombrowski could be discussing Scherzer with other clubs in part to guage his value and to see how those teams value their own players.
- Royals starter James Shields says that he has not had any talks with his club about an extension, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden reports via Twitter. Shields, who is in the last year of his deal, did say that he is open to exploring a new contract that would keep him in Kansas City. Having dealt recently-anointed AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers to get Shields, one would think that GM Dayton Moore will at least make an attempt to secure his services beyond 2014.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer indicated that the club has talked about an extension with starter Jeff Samardzija, David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com reports via Twitter. "We've had discussions with Samardzija because we like him and want to keep him," said Hoyer. "We'll see where things go. We like hearing he wants to be here." Hoyer's comments seem to make an extension for the 28-year-old seem more plausible than we've recently heard. Absent a new deal, Samardzija will hit the open market before the 2016 season.
- The Cubbies' GM also emphasized that the front office was not going to change its approach to placate anxious fans Kaplan also tweets. "We will not hit the fast forward button on our plan simply because people are impatient," Hoyer said. "It will make it worth it in the end."
Carlos Beltran wouldn't mind returning to the Royals, writes MLB.com's Dick Kaegel. "I think it would be a great story if it happens for me to go back," Beltran says of the possibility of again playing for the team with which he began his big-league career. Unsurprisingly, though, he isn't ready to commit to anything just yet, with seven to ten teams that might want to sign him, including many from big markets. "[T]here are just a lot of teams that have interest in my services, but we haven't talked about the number of years or the money; everything is preliminary right now," says Beltran. Here's more from the American League.
- The Royals would like to sign starting pitcher Josh Johnson, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. Johnson appears to be a high-upside gamble and is a good team player, Olney says, and he might be available on a one-year contract.
- AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer wouldn't mind signing an extension to stay with the Tigers, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. "I am open (to a new contract)," says Scherzer. "I realize I have it good here in Detroit. But it also takes two to dance." Scherzer is due to become a free agent after the 2014 season and should be in line for a huge payday. His agent, Scott Boras, sometimes negotiates pre-free agency extensions for his clients, but often prefers to have them test free agency. The Tigers also could trade Scherzer or another starter this offseason.
- The Yankees are unlikely to sign big-name free agents right away, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. They do not expect Brian McCann or Beltran to agree to a contract before they know what their options are, and so the only way to sign those players right now would be to make them offers that are difficult to refuse. Marchand notes that the Yankees like Beltran better than Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo because Ellsbury and Choo would require longer contracts.
Max Scherzer of the Tigers and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers have won Cy Young awards in their respective leagues. Scherzer finished ahead of Yu Darvish of the Rangers, who came in second, and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners, who finished third. Scherzer posted a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9, and he led the American League with a 21 wins.
Kershaw led the NL with a 1.83 ERA, and he posted 8.8 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. His 232 strikeouts also led the National League. He also won the Cy Young in 2011 and came in second in 2012. He took 29 of 30 possible first-place votes. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals came in a distant second, with Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez third.