Going to the Max? Scherzer brings high hopes
Right-hander's prized arm could provide winning edge in 2015
We know Max Scherzer is going to be expensive. Then again, there might be another way of looking at this whole thing.
How would Scherzer impact your favorite team?
Maybe that's the question we should be asking. Here's guessing that's the one 30 teams have been chewing on for a while.
Would Scherzer be the difference between making and missing the playoffs? If so, what's that worth to a franchise? Or is he the guy who could push an already solid team deep into October? And what's that worth?
In the last three seasons, Scherzer's 55 victories are the most in baseball. He's first in strikeouts, too, and 11th in innings. By almost any definition, he's a true No. 1 starter. The Tigers are 65-23 when Scherzer gets the ball and 205-192 with anyone else on the mound.
Let's look at a few teams and consider the possibilities. Before we get started, be forewarned. One of these days, Scherzer is going to pick a new team, and we're going to miss all this fun.
Yes, I know they're not interested, at least not at the price they think Scherzer would like to fetch. They have $45 million committed to CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka in 2015 and they can't see having a third $20 million pitcher.
On the other hand ...
Are they willing to go into a season with so much uncertainty in their rotation? They don't know how sound Tanaka's right elbow is. And while the Yanks believe Sabathia is healthy, they have no idea how good he'll be after 14 seasons and 423 starts.
Their newcomer, Nathan Eovaldi, pitched 199 2/3 innings last season for the Marlins. After him, only one other projected starter, Tanaka, cracked the 100-inning mark.
If you think Tanaka and Sabathia can be healthy and productive, and if you think Michael Pineda is sound, and if you think Ivan Nova will be back on the mound by the All-Star break, the Yankees might not need Scherzer. But if you're lining up the American League East teams according to rotations, they might be No. 5.
The Yankees understand this. Here's guessing they've crunched the numbers hundreds of times hoping to make them work. If Scherzer ends up cracking the $300 million barrier, it's likely to be with another team.
That said, the Yankees need him. He might be the difference between making the playoffs and missing out for a third straight year. As long as Scherzer is still on the market, the Yanks have to be considered a contender. Stay tuned.
After Andrew Friedman's remake, the Dodgers appear to be the best team in the National League West. How about a finishing touch? To line up Scherzer behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke would create one of the great monstrous rotations of our time. The Dodgers have shown no inclination to get involved, but with the Padres making so much noise and the Giants still solid, they're like the Yankees. Until Scherzer signs elsewhere, the Dodgers have to be considered a contender.
The rotation seems set with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum. Having used five rookies in the postseason in 2014, they have more kids pushing for jobs. One is right-hander Kyle Crick. Another is left-hander Ty Blach. There are others -- right-handers Clayton Blackburn and Chris Stratton -- who are getting close.
So, do the Giants give the kids a chance and evaluate their team again during the season? Or do they spend big now? They have a history of splashy acquisitions and have flirted with James Shields this offseason. But after working hard to develop some organizational pitching depth the last few years, the Giants finally appear to be there. Perhaps the time isn't right.
General manager Ben Cherington has done a tremendous job in adding three veteran starters -- Justin Masterson, Wade Miley and Rick Porcello. Combined with the young arms the Red Sox already have, the rotation doesn't seem like a huge need. Industry speculation has the Sox still shopping for a true No. 1, but if Porcello, Masterson and Clay Buchholz are healthy, there may not be a need.
The Rangers are playing the offseason cautiously, perhaps because they don't know whether Prince Fielder will make a complete recovery from neck surgery. If he's healthy, he could push the Rangers right back into the middle of the AL West race. If he's not, the club will have needs Scherzer can't fill. But there surely must be a temptation to spend big for Scherzer and put him in a rotation with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland to create one of the five best rotations in baseball.
Ace Jordan Zimmermann is a year from potential free agency, and general manager Mike Rizzo has played it coy in trade discussions. He hasn't said Zimmermann is available. Rizzo also hasn't said he's not available. If a team sweeps him off his feet -- that means you, Padres general manager A.J. Preller -- the Nationals would become the favorites to land Scherzer.
If you're all in, you're all in. With Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers new in town, why not make the kind of move that might just elevate the Padres to the top of the NL West?
This would be a perfect fit. The Mariners have a collection of young arms, but they wore down last season. Scherzer would add 200 innings to the rotation and most likely make the Mariners the favorites in the AL West.
General manager Jerry Dipoto has done a tremendous job adding pitching to the organization the last two offseasons, so there's probably not a pressing need for Scherzer. The Angels seem headed for the postseason with or without Scherzer. But they'd be a formidable October team with him.
This one is simple. The Blue Jays are contenders without Scherzer. They become AL East favorites with him. That said, general manager Alex Anthopoulos seems focused on bullpen help.
The Tigers have moved on. They've got five starters. They've got organizational pitching depth. Are you convinced yet? Agent Scott Boras and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch have a close relationship, and inside the industry, there are plenty of people who think that ultimately Scherzer will return to Motown. He would make the Tigers the consensus favorites in the AL Central, but they're that anyway.