Max Scherzer Rumors
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."
The Tigers' record-setting extension with Miguel Cabrera has been heavily questioned by most pundits, but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman has a more positive take on the contract, opining that you can hardly put a price on keeping one of the all-time great hitters in baseball history. General manager Dave Dombrowski should also deserve some benefit of the doubt, since, as Heyman writes, "no team has done a better job than the Tigers of procuring star talent through trades, and practically no team has done a better job of picking the right players to give the best contracts to, either."
Here's some more news from Detroit and elsewhere around the AL Central...
- Dombrowski met with Max Scherzer earlier this week to clear the air after both the team and Scott Boras (the pitcher's agent) released public statements about the halt in their contract negotiations. Scherzer told reporters (including John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press) that the GM apologized for comments that unintentionally portrayed the right-hander "in a negative context." Dombrowski also apologized for the contract numbers becoming public, and he was upset with whomever it was who leaked the information.
- In a phone conversation with Lowe, Dombrowski said “These negotiations are tough and difficult, and when you don’t come up with a mutual agreement, it can leave a little bit of tension. To me, it is always better to reach out to somebody to discuss it. Max is a tremendous person and great pitcher."
- In regards to an earlier item of his, ESPN's Jim Bowden clarifies (via Twitter) that Scott Boras' last proposal to the Tigers about a Scherzer extension would've covered seven of the righty's free agent years. The Tigers' last offer would've covered only six free agent years, which would've kept Scherzer in Detroit through the 2020 season.
- Jose Quintana may now have a higher profile in the wake of his five-year, $21MM extension, yet he is still one of game's more underrated and lesser-known starters, as Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes in his exploration of how Quintana developed from a virtual non-prospect to a cornerstone of the White Sox rotation.
- The offense-needy Twins could've added some more pop in their final roster moves, ESPN 1500's Phil Mackey opines. Mackey also suggests that backup catcher Josmil Pinto's live bat should be utilized more often as a regular DH rather than just a couple of starts per week or the odd pinch-hitting appearance.
- The Twins' struggles of recent years can't be blamed on ownership, Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, as the club has been more than willing to spend on payroll. Minnesota's payroll topped the $100MM mark in both 2011 and 2012, yet the team finished last in both seasons due to poor drafts and trades from former GM Bill Smith, plus some bad injury luck with the likes of Justin Morneau.
The Tigers extended Miguel Cabrera at a price of (at least) eight guaranteed years and $248MM yesterday, making Cabrera the highest-paid player, in terms of average annual value, in baseball history. Such a massive contract was bound to generate a lot of commentary, and the early returns aren't positive over Detroit's move. Here are some of the opinions...
- Executives from all over baseball are panning the extension, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (ESPN Insider subscription required). While Cabrera is obviously highly respected as a hitter and extending his contract for at least some length of time isn't a bad idea, several execs and scouts suggested three different ways that the Tigers could've approached the extension differently.
- In an Insider-only piece, ESPN's Keith Law rips the extension, citing the history of how rare it is for star players to stay productive into their late 30's, especially ones of Cabrera's body type. David Ortiz could be a best-case scenario for Cabrera, and while Ortiz is still a force, Law notes that the Red Sox have kept their star DH on short-term contracts through his late 30's to protect themselves if he suddenly declines.
- The fact that a team in a troubled market like Detroit could afford such a huge contract is actually a good sign for Major League Baseball's health, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi argues, and it could lessen the threat of a work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016. Tigers owner Mike Illitch's willingness to spend and his clear desire to retain Cabrera at any cost played a role, though Morosi notes that Joey Votto's extension with the Reds might've been an even riskier long-term deal for an even smaller-market club.
- The Tigers could be expecting a major revenue bump in the form of a new TV deal, as their current local broadcast contract reportedly expires after the 2017 season, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes. While this could explain how the Tigers expect to account for Cabrera's contract, however, Passan doesn't believe it excuses the decision, calling the extension possibly "the greatest debacle in the desolate baseball wasteland filled with bad-contract carcasses."
- The extension is both "terrible and understandable," according to Fangraphs' Dave Cameron. Had the Tigers not extended Cabrera, he likely would've gone elsewhere as a free agent in two years, and Illitch clearly wants to win now. On the other hand, Illitch could be leaving the franchise in tough financial shape once he passes on, the Tigers are already going cheap at a few positions due to payroll limitations and Cameron feels the deal is simply "a ridiculous overpay."
- Mike Trout could be the biggest winner from Cabrera's extension, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Trout and the Angels were reportedly negotiating an extension in the neighborhood of six years and $150MM, and Rosenthal figures Trout might as well take that deal now. "He would become a free agent at 28, and heaven knows what he will be worth then," Rosenthal writes.
- Cabrera's deal seems to guarantee that the Tigers won't re-sign Max Scherzer next offseason, ESPN's Jim Bowden opines (Insider-only piece). The timing of the extension "reeks of desperation" after the Tigers' negotiations with Scherzer broke down, "and the Tigers are giving off the vibe of a jilted lover on the rebound."
- My take: I have to agree with the consensus that this extension will end up being a major albatross for the Tigers. It would be one thing if Detroit had a bunch of well-regarded prospects ready to give the team quality production for a few seasons' worth of minimum salaries, but the Tigers' farm system was recently ranked 28th in the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. With little minor league help on the immediate horizon, it makes even less sense to tie up so much money in just a few players. It also puts pressure on Nick Castellanos (the club's top prospect) to contribute right away as the everyday third baseman and puts even more pressure on GM Dave Dombrowski to restock the farm with some quality drafts.
One hidden key to the Royals' emergence has been the club's dedication to Latin American scouting, signing, and player development under GM Dayton Moore (and special assistant Rene Francisco), writes Rany Jazayerli of RanyontheRoyals.com. Jazayerli breaks down the team's long history of virtually no significant spending on Latin American players, and how increased investments -- especially on lower-priced players like Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura, Miguel Almonte, and Jorge Bonifacio (total commitment: $253K) -- have been critical to building the team's overall talent base. Here's more from the American League Central:
- Max Scherzer requested an eight-year deal in his negotiations with the Tigers, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Tigers' reported offer was for six years and $144MM. If the sides were in agreement on the $24MM AAV, that would hypothetically put Scherzer's demands on total gaurantee at $192MM. Scherzer has injury protection through an insurance policy, Bowden adds, which perhaps has increased his willingness to wait for a larger deal on the open market.
- Meanwhile, the White Sox were able to secure seven years of control rights over their own prized starter, Jose Quintana, for a total guarantee that maybe as low as $21MM (if he does not qualify for Super Two status). Of course, unlike Scherzer, Quintana has just 1.133 years of service and did not win the AL Cy Young last year. Nevertheless, the deal looks like a smart investment for a Chicago club that has purchased prime years of several players at seemingly reasonable rates. As Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports, GM Rick Hahn sees the value in early extensions, which "frees us up to allocate our resources to other needs." Hahn explained: "You've seen the magnitude of what some of these deals have gotten to in free agency. It makes sense to try to get out in front of that sometimes, to try to get the price points locked in before the market continues to grow ... ."
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony had several updates today, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Infielder Jason Bartlett has agreed to push back his March 25 opt-out to the March 30 Opening Day roster deadline, which gives both sides more time to assess their options. Meanwhile, the club is still in discussions on a new deal with reliever Matt Guerrier, who was released because the club did not want to pay the Article XX(B) free agent signee a $100K retention bonus to stash him in the minors.
- Though the Twins have had some exploratory discussions about an extension with second baseman Brian Dozier, the 26-year-old tells Berardino that a deal is probably not happening at this point. That is not surprising, as Dozier has just 1.100 on his service clock and still has some questions to answer as a player. But he indicated that there is a positive vibe between the two sides and a hope that talks could pick up in the future. "We had some talks or whatever," he said. "Obviously nothing took place but it was a bunch of good postive feedback on both ends.It's very unlikely anything will be coming soon or during the season or anything. We'll let another year play out and see where it goes. That was just a thing to see where everybody was. I think [the Twins] would be in the near future open to it and we definitely are."
- The Indians were one of the clubs vying for Scott Baker's services before the offseason, and just released Aaron Harang. Nevertheless, Cleveland will not pursue the starter at this point, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Baker was released today by the Mariners after deciding he would rather test the market than accept an assignment to Triple-A.
The Tigers issued an unorthodox statement yesterday morning:
The Detroit Tigers have made a substantial, long-term contract extension offer to Max Scherzer that would have placed him among the highest paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected. As we have reiterated, it has been the organization’s intent to extend Max’s contract and keep him in a Tigers uniform well beyond the 2014 season. While this offer would have accomplished that, the ballclub’s focus remains on the start of the upcoming season, and competing for a World Championship. Moving forward there will be no further in-season negotiation and the organization will refrain from commenting on this matter.
As reported by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick later Sunday, Boras countered with a statement mirroring that of the team:
Max Scherzer made a substantial long-term contract extension offer to the Detroit Tigers that would have placed him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected by Detroit. Max is very happy with the city of Detroit, the fans and his teammates, and we will continue negotiating with the Tigers at season's end.
The legendary Peter Gammons asked rhetorically this morning, "What did the Tigers achieve painting their Cy Young as greedy?" As we ponder the team's decision to make their frustration public, here's more on the situation...
- Scherzer's side suggested to the Tigers that $144MM is an "old market price," reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, with the new market being Clayton Kershaw's $215MM deal and the Yankees' $175MM outlay for Masahiro Tanaka.
- Scherzer turns 30 in July, and his age plays against him in comparisons to megadeals for younger starting pitchers, writes Yahoo's Jeff Passan. Passan argues, however, that Scherzer's workload is relatively light at 18,643 pitches thrown in in his career. Passan feels that "The ceiling is now Kershaw. Boras doesn't traffic in floors." Further, the writer feels the Tigers' statement was "classic grandstanding and reeked of insecurity."
- The Tigers' cozy relationship with Boras is no more, writes Morosi. "Boras did not have direct dialogue with [owner Mike] Ilitch during the Scherzer negotiations," writes Morosi, in contrast to the Prince Fielder negotiations in the 2011-12 offseason.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden feels Scherzer should have overruled Boras and accepted the Tigers' offer, which Bowden feels is fair market value by way of a Zack Greinke comparison. Bowden credits Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski for drawing a line in the sand on Scherzer.
- Tim's take: the Tigers made a reasonable bid, though not one at the level typically required for a star Boras client to eschew free agency when it's so close. The public statement was a misstep, seemingly made out of frustration. The Tigers' offer would have Scherzer tied for the fifth-largest contract for a starting pitcher, and doesn't seem to account for inflation of salaries since Hamels signed in the summer of 2012. There's no word that the Tigers included an opt-out clause, which was included in all the bigger deals: Kershaw, C.C. Sabathia, Tanaka, and Greinke. Now, is it actually a smart baseball move to give Scherzer a seven-year deal worth more than $180MM covering his age 30-36 seasons? Probably not.
1:07 pm: Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports also spoke with Boras and the agent indicated both sides were active in talks and there was a price point at which Scherzer would have said yes, but he declined to disclose the details of his proposal to the Tigers (Twitter links).
12:25 pm: Scott Boras tells ESPN.com it wasn't Scherzer who rejected the extension offer, but the Tigers. "Max Scherzer made a substantial long-term contract extension offer to the Detroit Tigers that would have placed him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected by Detroit,'' Boras said. "Max is very happy with the city of Detroit, the fans and his teammates, and we will continue negotiating with the Tigers at season's end."
10:58am: An industry source told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that the Tigers' offer to Scherzer was for a slightly lower figure than the $25.7MM per year that Justin Verlander received in the extension he signed last spring. However, the deal still would have placed Scherzer among the top six highest-paid pitchers in baseball in terms of average annual value.
That means that the offer would have averaged at least $24MM a year. The only pitchers currently earning that much or more are the Clayton Kershaw ($30.7MM per year), Verlander ($25.7MM), Felix Hernandez ($25MM), Zack Greinke ($24.5MM), C.C. Sabathia ($24.4MM), Cliff Lee ($24MM), and Cole Hamels ($24MM).
It's worth noting that there's no word yet on how many years the Tigers offered Scherzer or whether there was an opt-out clause in the final proposal.
8:11am: The Tigers announced that Max Scherzer has rejected the Tigers' latest extension offer, meaning that talks between the two sides are done for the season. The pitcher has made it known that he would not negotiate a new contract during the 2014 season.
"This can be a major distraction," Scherzer said back in February. "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."
The Tigers' release indicates that the club made a "substantial, long-term contract extension offer...that would have placed him among the highest paid pitchers in baseball." Moving forward, they say, there will be no further talks during the year.
Scherzer, a Scott Boras client, will play 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 stellar last season, posting a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 214 1/3 innings. With Clayton Kershaw locked up and taken out of the 2015 free agent market, Scherzer will now stand as the premier pitcher next winter.
While no one can reasonably use Kershaw as a comparable, his new seven-year, $215MM deal with the Dodgers certainly raises the ceiling for top starters like Scherzer. As our own Jeff Todd noted in January, Masahiro Tanaka's seven-year, $155MM deal ($175MM when including $20MM posting fee) could have been relevant to Boras' case.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Here are a couple of bullets relating to the American League Central:
- Consensus top-five overall prospect Miguel Sano of the Twins is headed for an MRI after suffering an injury to his throwing elbow. His agent, Rob Plummer, tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he fears the worst -- a torn UCL -- although he makes clear that nothing is yet known for certain. Rehab is always an option, though club and player had already considered Tommy John surgery after Sano strained the ligament over the winter. The health of Sano's elbow could have quite a significant impact on his future value, not just due to possible delays in his development, but because some already believe he will not be able to man the hot corner at the MLB level.
- Though Justin Masterson said yesterday that he thinks he'll ultimately reach agreement to extend his stay with the Indians, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com says that may be hard to reach in reality. A GM told Gammons that the two top starters most likely to be truly available on the open market are Masterson and James Shields. Looking ahead to the potential payday he could land, suggests Gammons, Masterson may be forced to choose between playing in Cleveland and earning market value.
- The GM that Gammons spoke thought it likely that Max Scherzer would stay with the Tigers. But while the club has reached massive extensions with superstars like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, negotiating a new pact with Scherzer will be most difficult of all, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In large part, says Heyman, that fact is driven not only by Scherzer's skyrocketing value, but also his own "cool business stance" towards his next new deal. Detroit has played its part by agreeing to a record arbitration raise with Scherzer and clearing space for a new deal through several big offseason deals. But Heyman says that the reigning AL Cy Young winner has his sights set on matching -- or even exceeding -- the kinds of guarantees achieved by Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander in recent years.
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.
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 Bourn, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Hoynes also notes that the Indians have not had contact with Ubaldo Jimenez's agent since last month.
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.