Max Scherzer began the offseason as perhaps the best free agent in this year’s class, but his contract demands could keep him unsigned until 2015. The reigning American League Cy Young winner turned down a six-year deal worth $144 million from the Detroit Tigers last offseason, and teams don’t appear to be lining up to acquire him.
The two richest clubs in baseball don’t appear to be out of the running for Scherzer. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees had the league’s highest payrolls last year by a wide margin, but neither looks like a viable option for Scherzer. Both big-market teams were considered a viable destinations for the 30-year-old due to openings in their respective rotations and reports he was seeking a deal worth more than $200 million.
L.A. isn’t looking to add much to a bloated payroll that exceeded $240 million in 2014, and no reports have surfaced of the new front office team of Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes showing interest in Scherzer. The Dodgers reportedly had interest in acquiring Jon Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, but it’s unclear how hard they pursued him. The team already owes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke more than $77 million in 2015, and their rotation might be set for next season with the addition of Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson.
New York could certainly use Scherzer, considering they missed the playoffs for a second straight season and starters Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia were plagued by injuries. However, general manager Brian Cashman said on WNBC’s “Sports Final” that Scherzer’s future isn’t likely with the Yankees. Scherzer’s price tag might be too high for New York, as Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are tied to lengthy and expensive deals. The team has already signed reliever Andrew Miller and let closer David Robertson go to the Chicago White Sox.
It isn't just the Dodgers and Yankees sitting out the Scherzer Sweepstakes. The list of teams that aren’t interested in Scherzer at his current price tag seems to be much longer than those that are trying to sign him. The St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly not involved in the Scherzer sweepstakes and Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has said the team isn’t in “active pursuit” of the free agent, via the Detroit Free Press.
Despite their claims that they won’t break the bank to bring Scherzer back, the Tigers might still be the most likely destination for Scherzer. While assistant general manager Al Avila told Jim Duquette of SiriusXM that the organization has had “no conversations” with the pitcher’s camp, Jason Beck of MLB.com reports that the Tigers would have a final chance to match any offer since agent Scott Boras and owner Mike Ilitch have such a good relationship.
Former MLB general manager and current ESPN analyst Jim Bowden has listed the Tigers as the favorite to sign Scherzer. He put the San Francisco Giants second on the list.
San Francisco might be willing to give Scherzer a lucrative contract, considering they had interest in Jon Lester. The defending champs could have some money to spend, having lost Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse to free agency. Starters Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong remain unsigned.
The Boston Red Sox also made a strong play for Lester, but there is no indication they have interest in signing Scherzer. In addition to adding Sandoval to a five-year deal worth $95 million, the Red Sox also signed Hanley Ramirez to a four-year deal worth $88 million.
Scherzer is coming off consecutive outstanding seasons. His combined record over the past two years is 39-8, and he finished with an earned-run average of 2.90 in 2013 and 3.15 in 2014.