Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
While the argument about whether or not to spend big on Max Scherzer is complex, with strong arguments on both sides, to me, it comes down to a very simple question. Are the Tigers trying to a World Series in the next year (or two)? If the answer is yes, you simply have to sign Scherzer. There are absolutely longer-term risks with inking him to a deal that will pay him at least $160 million over six years given what Jon Lester signed for, along with the decline we've already seen in the club's other long-term investment in Justin Verlander. There are also now luxury tax ramifications that the team would face in the event they signed Scherzer and didn't do something to shed payroll elsewhere (like trading Rajai Davis or David Price). That impact however is minimal in 2015 and could be mitigated in future years as well. As I see it, the club has continued to signal that they are looking to win now, based on the decision to re-sign Victor Martinez, trade for Yoenis Cespedes while continuing to trade a number of young, talented players for big league parts. The Tigers still want to win a World Series, potentially in a race against time for owner Mike Ilitch. Given all that, it's time to pony up once again, and solidify this team as a 2015 World Series contender.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
With that market so quiet for Scherzer, speculation and conjecture have run rampant as to where he might land; chief among those landing spots is back in Detroit. That speculation is fair given the Tigers track record of retaining star players and handing out mega contracts, in general. Scherzer has been a driving force on the Tigers recent contending teams, and his return to the club would yet again cement them as World Series contenders. The inherent risk in such a lofty and lengthy contract is obvious, but the Tigers have more to gain than most from the signing than most clubs. Scherzer, combined with Anibal Sanchez, David Price, and a healthy Justin Verlander represents a dominating group of starters, and the subsequent trickle down effect is substantial. By solidifying the top four spots in the rotation, the Tigers have now created great flexibility for the fifth slot, with Alfredo Simon, Shane Greene, Kyle Lobstein , Buck Farmer, and Drew VerHagen all in the mix. After sorting out that competition, the Tigers will then have a host of options to help their much maligned bullpen. The re-signing of Max Scherzer, all by itself, improves not just the rotation, but the club's bullpen in a meaningful way; a way that when combined with an improved offense, leaves the club as a favorite to capture Mike Illitch's elusive World Series title. Speaking of Illitch, his willingness to spend should be taken advantage of at this point. The Tigers can lose the high price tags of Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, David Price, and Alex Avila next year, helping bring the payroll back in line. The one-year blip above the luxury tax threshold should be of little concern considering the meager $2 million (approximately) price tag, and with an assumed return to a lower payroll next season, the overall impact is nil. There are strong cases based in risk analysis and smart spending that suggest the Tigers should avoid Scherzer, but given the state of the organization and where they are likely heading over the next few years, their top remaining priority should be to ink Scherzer and set their sights on the World Series.
Neil Weinberg, Senior Analyst
Last winter, I looked ahead at what the Tigers were likely to offer and what Scherzer was likely to get on the free agent market and I didn't see a reason for the Tigers to offer market value or for Scherzer to take anything less. I still believe that's the case after another superb year from right-handed hurler. My guess last winter was that Scherzer was in for $180 million and I'd probably revise that mark up to something like 7 years, $190 million. Realistically, he's not getting anything less than $160M without slipping on the sidewalk and injuring his shoulder. And that's just too much for the Tigers to commit to Scherzer given their current circumstances. They have huge future commitments to Verlander and Cabrera and another big contract to a player in his thirties won't get them back on track any sooner. Scherzer would be a 4 or 5 win upgrade over Simon in 2015 and that's a valuable thing in the here and now, but they're going to need two starting pitchers after 2015. They're going to need at least one outfielder. They might need a catcher. They always need a bullpen. And that's all assuming Castellanos, Iglesias, and the other non-stars continue to cut it. Signing Scherzer to a mega-deal is a short term bet like the one the Tigers made on Prince before 2012. They wanted the short term wins so badly and he was the only game in town. It was a miracle that the Tigers got out from under the Fielder contract and they're already going to be holding plenty of bad money in 2017 and beyond. There's no question Scherzer makes the Tigers better in 2015 but there are better ways to spend $190 million over seven seasons. All of those ways might leave the team worse off for the coming season, but it will give them a better shot at maintaining their place among the game's perennial contenders.
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