Wednesday morning, one powerful tweet might have said it all regarding the murky future of elite hurler Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers.
Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports.com baseball reporter, wrote it very bluntly on Twitter after the pitcher spoke live on the MLB Network’s Hot Stove show: “Scherzer: no current talks on an extension with the Tigers.”
With a sneaky offseason extension now sounding less and less likely, it’s becoming clear that there are only two courses of action Dave Dombrowski will take. Either Dombrowski will let Scherzer play out the 2014 season and let the chips fall where they may later, or, realizing he will not be able to afford Scherzer, the general manager will seek to deal the prohibitive favorite for the 2013 American League Cy Young award in a blockbuster trade and perhaps fill a variety of Detroit’s needs in the process.
Though that move would probably be met with plenty of scorn, the second course of action might be the best for the Tigers. Dombrowski has experience with such moves. Faced with financial realities in 2009, Dombrowski made the overwhelmingly unpopular decision to deal young franchise face Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees. In return, the Tigers received Austin Jackson, Scherzer, and Phil Coke, all of whom have played a central role in Detroit’s three consecutive Central Division titles. The move helped jump start the Tigers once again, keeping them competitive during a time when the payroll had to be shifted. With Granderson fighting off injuries in New York, it’s easy to now name Detroit the obvious winner of that trade.
Though contract cases are different, now, a chance exists for a similar move with Scherzer. He’s due a hefty raise soon, and with big dollar core of Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, it might be a price Detroit simply cannot afford to pay and sustain a balanced roster. The move may also be percpiptated by value. Coming off a 21 win season, can Scherzer really be expected to duplicate his feats next season? Verlander, who’s been the greatest pitcher in the game, had a pedestrian 2013 season after dominating 2011 and 2012. Scherzer, while thriving in Detroit lately, still isn’t Verlander. Expecting him to consistently dominate like he did last season might be a foolish long term decision, especially financially.
A possible Scherzer trade is very enticing for this reason. Dombrowski, with other general managers perhaps certain that Scherzer can be the one to place their starting staff over the top, could essentially name his price on the established pitcher. Not only might Dombrowski be able to get back a quality young arm ala Scherzer himself in 2009, he might be able to find an upgrade at second base, left field or in the bullpen, as well. It might represent a nice bit of bulk shopping in a season where the Tigers probably can only afford to sign one big ticket item on the free-agent market.
Scherzer does have immense value to the Tigers in 2014 being under contract, meaning the team is in an ideal spot within these potential trade negotiations. If another team wants Scherzer badly enough, they’ll blow Dombrowski away and make him an offer he may not be able to refuse. If not, the Tigers can hold onto him and keep the best starting rotation in the American League intact for one more year, and perhaps another World Series run. Rosenthal’s sources say that Detroit is currently in the “listening, not shopping” mode on Scherzer, which he says is translation for “willing to move for the right return.”
It would be wise for Dombrowski to continue to carefully shop Scherzer this offseason, being that soon, the pitcher might be able to get away with no possible significant return at all. Finantial realities usually strike once every four years, meaning tough decisions have to be made along the way. A savvy general manager is always trying to upgrade multiple spots on his team in multiple different ways. This is no exception.
Though the move wouldn’t please the fans in the short term much like dealing Granderson didn’t, it might end up being the best business decision to keep the Tigers competitive for the long term.
With that in mind, it’s wise to keep an open mind regarding Scherzer this offseason.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax