Max Scherzer Rumors
Over the next few weeks, 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 (read more about it here), but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
Whatever Max Scherzer gets in arbitration in his second year of eligibility this season, he is likely to be a bargain. My arbitration model has him slated for a $3.75MM raise to $7.5MM in 2013. Scherzer is a highly talented pitcher who has shown that he has the skills that portend improvement -- namely, his strikeout rate. Thanks to 11.1 K/9, the Scott Boras client led the entire Major Leagues in SIERA in 2012. Though his sabermetric statistics suggest he was underrated in 2012 (his ERA was only 3.74, worse than his 2.99 SIERA), Scherzer’s best weapon in his arbitration case is his 16 wins, the least important major pitching statistic to sabermetricians.
Very few pitchers have entered their second year of arbitration with at least 15 wins. In fact, the only two pitchers in the last six years to have more wins than Scherzer were Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez, both of whom signed multiyear extensions in lieu of one-year arbitration deals. Verlander went 19-9 with a 3.45 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 240 innings in 2010. Before reaching arbitration, Verlander asked for a $5.825MM raise and the Tigers countered with a $3.215MM proposed raise. His actual raise is difficult to ascertain due to his multiyear deal but it was about $3.5MM. Hernandez’s raise was approximately $4.4MM in his multiyear deal after going 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 217 strikeouts in 238 2/3 innings in 2010. Scherzer falls short of both of their numbers -- he went 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA, and had 231 strikeouts in 187 2/3 innings. However, multiyear deals are not usually used in arbitration, and Scherzer is more likely to be compared with pitchers who signed one-year deals, even though they generally had fewer wins.
The other statistic that is particularly important for starting pitchers other than wins is innings pitched, and some of the other top pitchers who reached arbitration for the second time have bested Scherzer in this category. However, Scherzer has struck out hitters at a quicker rate than many of them in addition to having more wins.
One plausible comparable for Scherzer is Jered Weaver in 2011. Weaver got the largest raise (on a one-year deal) of any second-time eligible starting pitcher in recent years. Weaver had far more innings -- 224 1/3 of them, but only went 13-12. He did have a comparable number of strikeouts to Scherzer (233 vs. 231) and a better ERA (3.01 vs. 3.74). His $3.105MM raise could be a number that the Tigers use to try to suggest Scherzer’s salary should be lower. Since Weaver’s 2010 was better than Scherzer’s 2012 in areas other than win total, they may suggest that Scherzer should not top $3.105MM.
It’s possible Boras could point to Scherzer’s postseason performance in an attempt to distinguish his platform season from Weaver’s. While Weaver didn’t pitch in the playoffs in 2010, Scherzer started three games in the 2012 postseason, posting a 2.07 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. Scherzer made a strong ALDS start, won the clinching game of the ALCS and turned in a solid World Series start. This experience won’t dramatically alter his case, but it could help him in a hearing.
There were three other pitchers who did win 15 games going into their second year of arbitration eligibility, and who did sign one-year deals: Matt Garza and John Danks in 2011, and Erik Bedard in 2007. Garza went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 204 2/3 innings, and got a $2.6MM raise in arbitration. The mediocre ERA, combined with the favorable win total could make Garza another good comparable for Scherzer. However, his 150 strikeouts pale in comparison with Scherzer’s 231, and his 520 2/3 career innings before the season started are short of Scherzer’s 617. Previous innings do play a role in hearings, though other stats before the platform year generally do not. Danks got a $2.55MM raise in 2011, and had a similar season to Garza -- he went 15-11 with a 3.72 ERA in 213 innings, with 162 strikeouts. Bedard got a $2.025MM raise in 2007 with another similar season -- 15-11 with a 3.76 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 196 1/3 innings, but his numbers are pretty stale (deals that are six years old are infrequently used) and his 279 2/3 innings prior to his platform season do not make him a good comparison. Scherzer’s similar win totals and ERA combined with his better pre-platform year innings totals and far superior strikeout totals combine to suggest he should safely be able to argue for a superior raise than the largest of this trio, Garza’s $2.6MM.
If we try to look for pitchers with big strikeout totals, both Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Sanchez in 2011 got $2.7MM raises and could be seen as comparables. Liriano went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA, while racking up 201 strikeouts in 191 2/3 innings, and Sanchez went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 193 1/3 innings. However, these two pitchers only had 358 1/3 and 413 1/3 previous innings, respectively, both less than Scherzer’s 617. This pair makes it clear that Scherzer should be able to top a $2.7MM raise.
It’s hard to see how much higher than this Scherzer could go. Weaver’s $3.105MM raise could be treated as a ceiling, which would mean Scherzer would get no more than $6.85MM rather than the $7.5MM I have projected him for. On the other hand, having three more wins than Weaver, Scherzer has a good chance of arguing for better than $7MM. If Hernandez’s and Verlander’s salaries amidst multiyear deals are used as ceilings, however, it might be harder for Scherzer to argue for much more than that. I would probably take the under on the model’s projection and guess somewhere around right around $7MM.
Zack Greinke's record-setting six-year, $147MM contract with the Dodgers will have a ripple effect throughout baseball. MLB.com's Peter Gammons lists five things to watch for in the aftermath of Greinke's signing including what kind of deal will Casey Close, who represents both Greinke and his new teammate Clayton Kershaw, be able to negotiate for the young left-hander. Other aftershocks include:
- The Rays may be in a better position to deal one of their starting pitchers, as their value should be enhanced in talks with the Rangers, Royals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, or whichever other teams are interested, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin.
- After losing out on Greinke, the Rangers will turn their attention to R.A. Dickey, James Shields, and possibly Anibal Sanchez, writes Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters, including T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, "We'd like to add to our starting depth and we'd like to acquire an impact guy. But we're not casting a wide net to add a starter at any cost."
- The Tigers are affected both short-term and long-term, opines MLB.com's Jason Beck. Short-term, the Tigers could benefit because the Greinke signing should take the Dodgers out of the bidding for Sanchez and no other suitor for the right-hander has such superior financial resources. Long-term, potential contract extensions for Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer (represented by SFX and Scott Boras, respectively, according to MLBTR's Agency Database) could become much more expensive.
- Earlier today, we learned how one executive believes the entire economic landscape of the game is going to change drastically because of the Dodgers' spending. And, the Greinke signing will not allay those fears.
The Orioles no-hit the Tigers on this date in 1967, but Detroit walked ten times and still managed a 2-1 win. Here are some Tigers-related notes to begin the week before tonight's game against the Royals...
- Tigers manager Jim Leyland hinted that the Tigers could option Max Scherzer to the minor leagues for a time if his struggles continue. "There are always choices," the skipper said, according to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. Scherzer has a 7.77 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 five starts into the season.
- Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press says the three-way trade that sent Curtis Granderson to New York for Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Daniel Schlereth “remains in the best long-range interests of the Tigers” because they cashed in their best trade chip for players with star potential.
- Leyland says the Tigers need to get Scherzer going, according to Sharp. "There's no question about that,” Leyland said. “I'm not mad at him. I love the guy. But it's just the facts. We need to get him going.”
- Longtime Tiger Brandon Inge is expected to join the Athletics in Boston today, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Inge agreed to terms with the A's yesterday.
The Tigers and Max Scherzer agreed to a 2012 salary of $3.75MM yesterday, but the negotiations won’t necessarily end there, since extension season is just beginning. Last year, for example, 24 players signed extensions between the date arbitration numbers were exchanged and the end of April. Just one of those players was a client of the Boras Corporation -- Scherzer's agency -- but the possibility of an extension exists for the 27-year-old right-hander nevertheless.
Gio Gonzalez and Justin Masterson are two of the first-time arbitration eligible pitchers who most closely resemble Scherzer. Gonzalez (38-32, 3.93 ERA in 535 1/3 innings) Masterson (28-38, 3.92 ERA in 613 2/3 innings) and Scherzer (36-35, 3.92 ERA in 617 innings) all have similar numbers from a career standpoint. However, Scherzer's platform season ERA of 4.43 exceeded the 2011 marks Gonzalez and Masterson posted by more than a run. Gonzalez recently signed a five-year, $42MM extension and Masterson is another candidate for a long-term deal.
Gonzalez and Masterson aren’t the only pitchers who resemble Scherzer. The Tigers right-hander has numbers that resemble the ones John Danks, Chad Billingsley, Matt Garza and Johnny Cueto had when they became arbitration eligible for the first time. The various contracts those pitchers signed offer insight into Scherzer’s future earning power.
A four-year deal worth slightly more than $30MM could work for both sides, I believe. Recent deals for the pitchers above suggest a deal between Scherzer and the Tigers might look like this: $3.5MM in 2012, $6MM in 2013, $8MM in 2014, $12MM in 2014 and a modest buyout for one or two additional club option seasons. A guaranteed four-year total in the $30MM range would eclipse Cueto’s $27MM deal and while it wouldn’t reach Gonzalez’s $42MM mark, that may not be realistic for a pitcher with Scherzer’s 2011 ERA.
The Tigers would extend their control of Scherzer and cap his earnings by buying out his arbitration seasons and at least one year of free agency. Tigers starters Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister and Jacob Turner are all under team control through 2014 or later and extending Scherzer would keep the group in place for even longer. While there are risks associated with every pitcher extension, the 2006 first rounder has made 30-plus starts in both of the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Scherzer would obtain multiyear security and extend his stay with the 2011 AL Central champs.
Advanced metrics such as xFIP (3.70), FIP (4.14) and SIERA (3.63) suggest Scherzer's 2011 ERA of 4.43 was higher than expected for someone with his peripheral stats. If the statistically-minded hurler is willing to gamble on similar health and improved luck in 2012, his extension prospects might look considerably better a year from now. But if Scherzer is willing to sign before the season and the Tigers are looking to lock him up, a four-year deal in the $30MM range seems fair.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
Dozens of arbitration eligible players have agreed to deals with their respective teams today and we've been tracking all of the developments right here. Several teams, including the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and perhaps Astros, are known for committing to going to hearings if they get to the point of filing. Keep track of all the madness with MLBTR's arbitration tracker, which shows settlement amounts, filing figures, and midpoints. Today's players to avoid arbitration on deals worth less than $4MM:
- The Cardinals avoided arbitration with pitcher Kyle McClellan, tweets B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest. Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (on Twitter) that the one-year deal is worth $2.5MM with incentives based on starts. MLBTR projected a $2.7MM for the Steve Comte client.
- MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports (on Twitter) that the Padres and Chase Headley agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.475MM, avoiding arbitration. Earlier this evening, the Padres announced that they avoided arbitration with Luke Gregerson, Edinson Volquez, Carlos Quentin and Will Venable. They also avoided arbitration with lefty reliever Joe Thatcher on a deal worth $700K, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. CAA announced catcher John Baker has signed for $750K. Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune first reported that the Padres reached agreements with Hundley, Chase Headley, and Tim Stauffer. Hundley will earn $2MM in 2012, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets. Dan Hayes of the North County Times tweets the salaries for Volquez ($2.2375MM), Venable ($1.475MM), Gregerson ($1.55MM)
- The Rangers avoided arbitration with Matt Harrison, tweets Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. The ACES client gets $2.95MM on a one-year deal. MLBTR had projected a $2.9MM salary.
- The Cubs announced that they have avoided arbitration with Jeff Baker ($1.375MM), Blake DeWitt ($1.1MM), Ian Stewart ($2.237MM) Chris Volstad ($2.655MM), and Randy Wells ($2.705MM). MLB.com's Carrie Muskat tweeted the salary figures.
Let's take a look at some items as we close in on the 3:00pm (CST) deadline..
- Even though he received a number of calls on him, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. insists that Domonic Brown was never available, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Meanwhile, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that he never considered trading Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer to the Rockies in a package for Ubaldo Jimenez, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com.
- Several teams, including the Braves and Giants, are interested in the Astros' Michael Bourn, but the outfielder would prefer to stay in Houston, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
- Even though they're getting hits on several useful chips with expiring contracts, the Mets are likely done trading, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
There is little that is more dismaying than looking back at old draft lists, with the benefit of hindsight, and seeing which players your favorite team missed out on while settling for players who either failed to make much of an impact, or who never even reached the major leagues. Think Reggie Jackson and Steve Chilcott, Robin Yount and David Clyde, Dwight Gooden and Bryan Oelkers. Often, this is driven less by player talent, and more by positional need.
But even more fascinating is to look at some recent draft picks and some of their immediate counterparts, to see how teams fared picking players, one over another, who played the same position. In other words, straight-up scouting choices led to these decisions. Let's take a look at how those worked out in 2006.
- LHP Andrew Miller (Tigers) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): This one is more complicated than it might seem at first. Clearly, Miller, drafted sixth overall, has not been nearly as effective as Kershaw, drafted seventh overall. Miller has a 5.50 ERA in 261 2/3 major league innings, and is currently having trouble throwing strikes in the minor leagues, with an astonishing 30 walks in 28 innings. Kershaw has a 3.28 ERA in 342 major league innings, and shows signs of being a good deal better than that moving forward. But Miller isn't with the Tigers; Detroit dealt him in the move that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Still, advantage has to go to Kershaw on this one, and the Dodgers as well.
- RHP Tim Lincecum (Giants) vs. Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks): Is this one about to turn? Obviously, as of this date, Lincecum, drafted tenth, has worked out as well as one could hope any draft pick could, while Scherzer, drafted eleventh, is still a work-in-progress who has already been traded once. But Lincecum has had uncharacteristic struggles with his control lately, even though his season ERA (3.14) and strikeout rate (10.4/9 innings) are not far off of his career marks. And Scherzer is coming off of a 14-strikeout performance, though four walks meant that he did so in just 5 2/3 innings. For now, though, a big edge to Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
- OF Tyler Colvin (Cubs) vs. Travis Snider (Blue Jays): Based on 2010 season line alone, this battle of the lefty-hitting outfielders would have to go to Colvin, drafted thirteenth, over Snider, drafted fourteenth. After all, Colvin has an OPS of .991 in 83 plate appearances this season, while Snider's stands at .806. But overall, it seems clear that the Blue Jays did better here. Snider came out of high school, while Colvin was a collegiate player. Yet Snider posted significantly better offensive numbers than Colvin as each player climbed their respective system ladders- a .916 to .785 edge in minor league OPS. Snider was holding down a regular job at age 22 before he hit the DL, while Colvin is struggling for a regular spot as his 25th birthday approaches. This one is debatable, but the smart money gives Toronto and Snider the edge.
Saturday night linkage..
- The Tigers announced tonight they've demoted Max Scherzer and Scott Sizemore to Triple A, with Armando Galarraga and Danny Worth getting the call. Both Scherzer and Edwin Jackson have disappointed since changing teams in December's big deal.
- Hank Blalock comes to Tampa Bay determined to be a more well-rounded player, according to MLB.com's Adam Berry and Bill Chastain.
- The Marlins could make a 40-man roster move soon to bring back Mike Lamb, tweets MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. Lamb was designated for assignment last week and is currently in Triple A.
- Despite Adam LaRoche's successful 2009 stint in Atlanta (.325/.401/.557 in 57 games), the Braves didn't approach him about returning, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Alan Schwarz of the New York Times takes an in-depth look at the likely first overall pick in next month's draft, Bryce Harper.
- Nats manager Jim Riggleman says that the club will have to consider making a roster move with reliever Brian Bruney, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).
- Mets pitcher Oliver Perez won't accept a demotion to Triple-A if asked, tweets David Lennon of Newsday. Perez has been bumped out of the starting rotation and placed in the bullpen.
- Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes that Eric Byrnes and Morgan Ensberg are making the most of life-after-baseball.
- Brewers pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress will have to wait a little bit longer to return to the mound once he is reinstated, writes MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Jeffress, the 18th overall pick in the 2006 draft, has tested positive for a "drug of abuse" on three separate occasions.
Once the Tigers traded Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson for four pre-arbitration eligible players, the thought was that owner Mike Ilitch was trimming payroll after the recession hit Detroit especially hard. However, he then approved a massive extension for ace Justin Verlander as well as the signing of Johnny Damon, and now his team's Opening Day payroll is expected to be somewhere around $130MM, up from $115MM last year.
Lynn Henning of The Detroit News wrote about the payroll savings GM Dave Dombrowski will enjoy after the season, which are pretty significant. Here's a look at the money the Tigers have coming off the books after the 2010 season...
- Jeremy Bonderman, $12.5MM salary in 2010
- Dontrelle Willis, $12MM
- Nate Robertson, $10MM
- Johnny Damon, $8MM
- Brandon Inge, $6.6MM
- Gerald Laird, $3.95MM
- Bobby Seay, $2.475MM
- Adam Everett, $1.5MM
That's $57.025MM in savings right there, and the team would be wise to avoid letting Magglio Ordonez reach the 540 plate appearances needed for his $15MM option to vest.
Ilitch isn't shy about spending big on the free agent market, and he'll have the money available to add a big bat to complement Miguel Cabrera (Jayson Werth, Aramis Ramirez if he declines his option?) as well as another elite starter to a rotation that already includes Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Max Scherzer (Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee?) after the season. Keep in mind that I was just throwing some names out there off our 2011 free agents list, and that the Tigers have not been linked to any of those players in any rumors we've seen.
The Tigers are already in a position to compete in the AL Central, and once they shed some dead money after the season, they'll have a chance to jump ahead of the pack if they spend wisely.
The Diamondbacks' main additions this offseason have been Adam LaRoche, Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, Kelly Johnson, Aaron Heilman, and Bob Howry. They also exercised Brandon Webb's option and received Tony Abreu as the player to be named later in the Jon Garland trade. On the flip side, they subtracted Max Scherzer, Doug Davis, Yusmeiro Petit, and Daniel Schlereth from the pitching staff.
- Regarding LaRoche, Kendrick said, "There were a couple of other possibilities, and we were going to be able to do one of them."
- Given the losses of Webb and Conor Jackson last year, Kendrick considers them on par with big free agent additions for 2010.
- Kendrick spoke of four or five guys the D'Backs would prefer not to go year-to-year with, third baseman Mark Reynolds among them. Kendrick believes the time for those discussions is before the season begins. Reynolds will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2011, as he just missed the cutoff this time around.
- Byrnes spoke of "a pendulum in the game," where some teams chase a new philosophy to the extent that it creates a market inefficiency.
- Byrnes carefully explained why he traded Scherzer, suggesting Jackson has gotten "to that next level" while Scherzer hasn't. He also explained how that three-way deal came together - 90% was done quickly, and then there was "about a month of starting at each other and seeing if there were another deal, improvements or alternatives out there either club liked."