Max Scherzer Rumors
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.
The Tigers have told teams that they're open to trading either Max Scherzer or Rick Porcello, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Scherzer has been involved in trade whispers for the last few weeks as the Tigers are considering their options in the event that they can't hammer out a new deal before he hits the open market after the 2014 season.
The 29-year-old Scherzer pitched a career-high 214 1/3 innings, turning in a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 36.3 percent ground-ball rate in 2013. While he earned just $6.725MM in 2013, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects an increase to a whopping $13.6MM in 2014 following his dominant campaign. Scherzer's 2.98 SIERA and 2.74 FIP are both among the seven best marks in baseball and among the six starters with better FIP marks, only Clayton Kershaw has a higher innings total.
Porcello, 25 in December, turned in a 4.32 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 across 177 innings of work. Those numbers and some of the advanced statistics (3.19 xFIP) indicate that 2013 was Porcello's best season yet.
Over the next few months, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
The current record raise for an arbitration eligible starting pitcher with five years of service time is now seven years old. Carlos Zambrano received a shocking $5.9MM raise back in 2007 after finishing 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 214 innings with 210 strikeouts. No other pitcher has come close to this amount. In fairness, this raise was somewhat of an anomaly and still looks like a big outlier, but the raises have slowly inched closer to this amount. Cole Hamels received a $5.5MM raise in 2012 after a 14-9 campaign with a 2.79 ERA. This year, however, it looks like this record may be broken once and for all by Max Scherzer.
Scherzer is coming off a $6.725MM salary, and the model sees him getting $13.6MM in 2014. Although this would beat the record by $975K, it seems like a very reasonable estimate for Scherzer this coming season. This was the breakout season that I had suspected Scherzer had in him for a few years. Especially after leading the league in SIERA last year (which has a higher correlation with the following year’s ERA than ERA itself or other comparable statistics), it seemed like Scherzer had just been unlucky.
This year, he made that assessment look accurate. He posted a 2.90 ERA in 214 1/3 innings, while striking out 240 hitters. His SIERA even declined slightly since last year. However, Scherzer also had the good fortune of a large helping of run support this year, which helped him compile a 21-3 record. Wins and innings are by far the most important statistics for a starting pitcher in arbitration, and these clearly will give him a strong case going into arbitration.
There are very few statistics where other starting pitchers in the five years of service time group have topped him. In the last seven years, no one has come into arbitration with five years of service time after getting more than 16 wins, giving Scherzer a nice five win edge over any other comparable the Tigers try to present to the panel.
Scherzer also has among the most innings of eligible pitchers with similar service time in recent memory. Roy Oswalt had 220 2/3 innings back in 2007, but signed a multi-year deal instead of sticking with one-year agreements. Zambrano (214), Hamels (216), and Vargas (217 1/3) all fell in a similar range, and they received raises of $5.9MM, $5.5MM, and $3.65MM. Of course, all had fewer wins and only Hamels had an ERA under 3.00 like Scherzer does. In fact, Hamels is the only pitcher with an ERA under 3.00 among starting pitchers with similar service time to Scherzer in the last seven years with enough innings to qualify for an ERA title.
The floor for Scherzer really does seem to be Zambrano’s $5.9MM raise. Combine a superior set of platform year statistics, along with a probable Cy Young in his trophy case, and Scherzer seems likely to set a new record for starting pitchers. If the Tigers don’t sign him to a multi-year deal, I think that something in the $13.6MM range that the model projects is likely to be where he lands.
An interesting parallel case will be going on for Clayton Kershaw, who is also eligible for arbitration eligibility this offseason and also has five years of service time, and seems to be a better comparable for Scherzer than any of the pitchers mentioned above. Kershaw only went 16-9, which is much worse than Scherzer’s 21-3, but he had 236 innings pitched and a 1.83 ERA, so if he signs before Scherzer, you can bet their Scherzer’s team will be eager to use him as a comparable. Check out my arbitration breakdown for Kershaw here.
One or both of these players may sign a long-term extension, so neither will necessarily set the record. But either way, both of them will be getting substantial raises in the neighborhood of $7MM more than they earned last season, and both will set the bar higher for arbitration eligible pitchers with five years of service time in future years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Let's take a look at the latest from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who's out with a new column of rumors from around the majors:
- A trade of second baseman Ian Kinsler or shortstop Elvis Andrus increasingly looks "inevitable" given the Rangers' crowded infield. "Some team is going to get a good middle infielder from the Rangers. The only question is which one," Rosenthal writes. It's unlikely, however, that the club packages infielder Jurickson Profar with other young players in a deal for a star such as David Price or Giancarlo Stanton. Rosenthal's sources say the Rangers want to keep their farm system stocked.
- Matt Garza's elbow shouldn't scare off potential suitors. Though he missed much of 2012 with an elbow issue, officials with both the Cubs and Rangers tell Rosenthal that the righty wasn't treated for elbow issues at all in 2013.
- There's mutual interest in a new deal between Southern California native Jason Vargas and the Angels, but Rosenthal's sources say the team is already examining other options and could move on from the left-hander if negotiations drag. Vargas may ultimately have to leave money on the table if he wants to remain with the club.
- The Orioles are at least considering options for a backup catcher, as Matt Wieters managed just a .628 OPS against lefties last season. Rosenthal notes that the O's could seek to move Wieters and target a replacement such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as Wieters is unlikely to agree to an extension. However, trading him now would be selling low.
- Baltimore will also have to consider how they'll approach J.J. Hardy's impending free agency. Though Rosenthal writes that the Orioles' front office eventually aims to move Manny Machado to shortstop, it also views Hardy, who becomes a free agent after next season, as critical to the club.
- Executives from other teams are surprised at rumors that the Tigers are listening on Max Scherzer. Shipping Scherzer elsewhere and then losing Anibal Sanchez to an injury would be a major hit to the team's rotation.
- The Diamondbacks continue to wait for a reply from Dave Duncan on whether he will take their pitching coach job.
The Max Scherzer trade rumors don't make much sense to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, who argues that a Tigers club built to win in 2014 can't afford to move an ace pitcher unless another team makes "an incredibly loony price" in a trade. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore hears from a source who flatly denies that Scherzer will be dealt, and Kilgore wonders if the Tigers' alleged willingness to trade may hint at concerns about Scherzer's future performance.
Here are some items about notable arms that could be had via trade or free agency this offseason...
- The Nationals have the minor league depth to acquire the likes of Scherzer or David Price, Kilgore writes. It could be more likely that the Nats pursue a younger pitcher who is under control for more years, a la the team's deal for Gio Gonzalez.
- Shelby Miller is "an under-the-radar potential [trade] target," a baseball official opines to Kilgore. Miller pitched just one postseason inning for the Cardinals due to concerns that he had a tired arm, though Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that were rumors that Miller was really being saved for a possible trade this winter. I'm not sure if I believe that theory; you'd think the Cards would've had all healthy arms on deck in pursuit of a World Series.
- The Cubs are interested in Masahiro Tanaka, GM Jed Hoyer told David Kaplan on WGN Radio's The David Kaplan Show (Twitter link). "He's going to help somebody and we will be in on him," Hoyer said.
- Matt Sosnick, Josh Johnson's agent, says he has talked to "nearly every team" about his client, including the Rangers, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett reports. The Rangers appeal to Johnson due to their winning ways because he lives in nearby Oklahoma, though since Sosnick says Johnson would prefer "at least a pitching-neutral ballpark," Rangers Ballpark might be a hindrance.
- The Angels' signing of starter Chris Volstad could spell trouble for starters Jerome Williams and Tommy Hanson, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles TImes. Volstad is cheap and young, and DiGiovanna says that the club may not see much difference between him and the club's pricier, pre-existing options. In his breakdown of the Halos' arbitration-eligible players, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes calls Hanson a definite non-tender candidate, and says Williams could also be shown the door.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden speculates about six possible David Price trades (ESPN Insider subscription required).
MLBTR's Jeff Todd also contributed to this post