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.
Apparently, the Tigers offered somewhere around six years and $144M, or $24M average annual value (AAV); a deal comparable to that Cole Hamels received in July 2012. Scherzer’s representative, Scott Boras, said it’s an outdated offer and said Clayton Kershaw’s $215M deal and Masahiro Tanaka’s $175M posting fee and contract are more relevant ones.
The conspiracy theorist have already started on this: Scherzer wants to play for the Cardinals and is willing to pass on this contract to sign with the hometown team.
There are quite a few reasons why this won’t ever happen.
First off, this would not follow the Cardinals MO. They don’t offer huge contracts on the free agent market. The closest recent cases would be Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols; both were offered nine figure deals. The difference is both players were with the Cardinals when the offers were made. When dealing with players outside of the organization, the Cardinals just don’t go after the top-tier guys. The largest contract John Mozeliak has handed out was 4 years and $53M to Jhonny Peralta; it was the largest total contract and the largest AAV ($13.5M, half a million more than the AAV of Carlos Beltran’s deal).
The only shot that the Cardinals have would be Scherzer signing a below market deal with the team. As noted earlier, Scherzer is a client of Scott Boras, who does not do below market deals. On top of that, Scherzer is the best pitcher in the thin free agent class of 2014; teams will line up to get the ace, including big spenders like the Yankees, Rangers, and Orioles. Boras will also use the media to get other teams in the bidding, either if they really are or not.
Let’s assume that Scherzer would sign a below market deal to play at home; there is still the issue of fitting him into the rotation. The Cardinals have the long-term rotation locked up: Adam Wainwright is signed through 2018 while Lance Lynn is the team controlled player that could hit free agency first (2017). Even if the team were to non-tender a starter, they have multiple players that could step in; recent addition to the bullpen Carlos Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal have starter aspirations. The team also has been pretty smart in drafting pitchers, like Rob Kaminsky and Marco Gonzales in 2014.
The Cardinals are a smart organization and know where to spend their money. They also know how to build a winner. The common tie between the 2006 and 2011 World Series Championship teams was Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker, Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina (Wainwright was on the DL for 2011, but could also be included); 3 of the 4 were products of the farm system, while the other was a low cost free agent. Adding a big name signing might not be the best idea.
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