Max Scherzer Rumors
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
The Nationals are looking to add an "elite" starting pitcher via trade, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and they're in luck, as both Max Scherzer and David Price have been rumored to be available this winter. Rosenthal explains his reasons behind believing that Scherzer could be a better fit, highlighted by the fact that Nats GM Mike Rizzo drafte Scherzer in the first round when he was the Diamondbacks' scouting director. Rosenthal's sources maintain that the Tigers aren't shopping Scherzer at this point but rather just listening to offers. Here's more from a jam-packed column from Rosenthal...
- The Phillies have kicked around the idea of trading for Price, but it's unlikely to happen. The Phils would likely have to include top prospect Jesse Biddle in a potential package and perhaps Domonic Brown as well. Also, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recognizes that his club has multiple needs and that he will need to make multiple additions rather than going "all-in" on one big splash like Price or free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
- While many will argue that Tim Lincecum's deal doesn't impact the free agent markte for starting pitchers because it was the Giants paying to keep one of their own, Rosenthal points out that other starters and their agents will argue the direct opposite -- "that the Lincecum contract was merely the outgrowth of supply-and-demand economics." In particular, he feels that it hurts the Pirates in their quest to retain A.J. Burnett. Rosenthal wonders how the Bucs can possibly retain Burnett after Lincecum got $17.5MM per year when they didn't even want to offer Burnett a $14.1MM qualifying offer.
- The Rangers are once again pondering their infield logjam and whether or not to trade one of Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler. Kinsler could also be moved to first, though it may be less appealing that moving Kinsler and his salary ($57MM through 2017). Kinsler's contract makes him the easier of the two to trade. Figuring out the middle infield and securing some salary relief could be the key to the Rangers' offseason, he adds.
- The Mariners consider right-handed pop their biggest need, and Rosenthal wonders if they'll take a second run at Mike Napoli, who they tried to land last offseason.
Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal limited the Red Sox to just four hits and two runs in the Cardinals' 4-2 win in Game Two of the World Series. Their success is the latest example of the Cards' peerless farm system and ability to develop pitching, which is the topic of these news links...
- Wacha lasted until the 19th pick in the 2012 draft, a selection that looks like a steal for the Cards right now. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo talks to some scouts and executives from those first 18 teams about why they passed on Wacha and how he fell so relatively far in the draft.
- Beyond finding draft steals, the Cardinals' ability to turn those low draft picks into star players is what wows executives and scouts around baseball, Peter Gammons writes. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy talks to several past and current members of the St. Louis organization about how they evaluate and develop their talent.
- Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. boosted payroll and authorized expensive player acquisitions in his first few years of owning the team in order to revive fan interest and quickly get into contention, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch writes. In 2003, however, DeWitt refocused the franchise towards emphasizing player development, spending on the draft and international scouting, thus starting the Cardinals' current run of success.
- With as many as 10 potential starting options for the rotation next year, some rival executives wonder if the Cardinals could package some young arms in a deal for Max Scherzer, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reports. Scherzer, who was born in St. Louis, has been rumored to be a possible trade candidate since the Tigers are unsure if they'll be able to sign him to a long-term extension. As Knobler wonders, however, "why would the Cardinals need to do that?" given that they're already set for pitching, not to mention that Scherzer will be a free agent next winter.
- Some think that if any Cardinal pitcher is traded, Lance Lynn could be "the odd man out," Knobler writes.
Brian McCann's foray into free agency is well-timed, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. The Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Cubs and Angels could all have interest in him, perhaps along with the Blue Jays and White Sox. The fact that big-market teams like the Red Sox (whose primary catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, is also a free agent) and Yankees might be on the lookout for a catcher could drive McCann's price sky-high. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Tim Lincecum did indeed decline a two-year deal to remain with the Giants, but Heyman says that doesn't mean Lincecum is looking for a longer contract. Instead, Lincecum was seeking a one- or two-year deal with the Giants, seemingly hoping to recover his earlier, Cy Young-caliber form before heading back out on the free-agent market. The Mariners, Dodgers and Angels could all have interest in Lincecum, Heyman writes.
- The Red Sox' run to the World Series has been stressful and exciting for its front office, writes MLB.com's Ian Browne. "Those of us in the front office, we're kind of just along for the ride at this point," says GM Ben Cherington. "When the games start, we're rooting so hard, we're fans, and every pitch is like an event. So some parts of the games are hard to watch. We enjoy grand slams and the last three outs when Koji [Uehara] is on the mound. That's about it."
- It's unclear what the Tigers will do with Max Scherzer this offseason, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. Scherzer can become a free agent after 2014, and many executives for other teams believe the Tigers will shop him. Others believe, though, that the Tigers will simply pretend they might trade Scherzer in order to get Scherzer to encourage his agent, Scott Boras, to negotiate a long-term deal.
Cubs prospect Albert Almora declared 12 years ago his intention to become a major league star, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune writes. "I'm a quiet kid, just go out and do what I have to do. I like to just shut up and not say anything, let my game do the talking. It has worked so far," Almora says. The Cubs took the outfielder sixth overall in last year's draft, and though Almora missed time this year with injuries, he's six for 10 with five runs and six RBIs in two Arizona Fall League games. On to more Saturday night links...
- Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune spoke with former Stanford assistant coach Dean Stotz about A.J. Hinch, whom the Cubs are reportedly considering for their open manager position. While Hinch struggled during his previous tenure as manager of the Diamondbacks, Stotz, who coached Hinch in college at Stanford, praised his scouting and player development acumen and predicted that the next team that hires him "will be pleased."
- The Mariners' purported interest in Lou Piniella for their manager vacancy was overblown, Ryan Divish of The News Tribune reports. A team source tells Divish that there was no "full-court press" to bring Piniella back.
- Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun has more on Manny Machado's upcoming knee surgery, reporting that the Orioles initially hoped to rehab the tear to the third baseman's medial patellofemoral ligament but decided that doing so could result in a higher chance of an injury in the future. “The surgery is universally very successful in returning players back to play, including baseball players," Daryl Osbahr, the director of sports medicine research at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, commented.
- The time may be right for Cal Ripken Jr. to accept a managing job outside of Baltimore, Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun writes. Buck Showalter has a long-term deal in place as the Orioles' manager, providing cover from fan backlash for both the team and Ripken if the O's legend decides to manage another club. Ripken has been connected to the Nationals in recent days.
- Mutual need for outfield production may lead to a bidding war between the Mets and the Phillies for Carlos Beltran, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News says. The Mets have money to spend and will look to improve upon an outfield that posted the worst OPS in the NL, while the Phillies may target Beltran, a switch hitter, for their lefty-heavy lineup, Murphy says.
- Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III discussed his team's success and the support it receives from St. Louis in an interview with MLB.com
- The Tigers may have to decide between keeping Max Scherzer for one more year or signing Miguel Cabrera to a new extension, according to Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz has projected that Scherzer will make $13.6MM this offseason in his final year of arbitration. Recent reports suggest that the Tigers will consider trading Scherzer in the offseason.