Yesterday's news that the Tigers were exploring a trade of David Price in order to clear room for a Max Scherzer extension was interesting, but something with the rumor didn't sit right. Jesse Spector of Sporting News picked up on our rumor, and his take was that the timing of the news didn't make sense.
That would be quite a risk for Dombrowski to take, given that the season still is nearly five months away. If Detroit aims to sign Scherzer or anyone else for big money, it would make far more sense to be sure to have them under contract first, then make the payroll-clearing trade.
Initially, I blew it off. Lots of things don't make sense in the offseason. Maybe the Tigers and Scherzer are closer on a deal than we think.
Then, as our weekly mailbag questions started rolling in, this popped up.
@blessyouboys Why would the Tigers chose to resign Scherzer and trade Price, instead of extending Price? #mailbag— PJK (@Tigerfan_PJK) November 19, 2014
Grant Brisbee hinted at the reason earlier this morning at SB Nation MLB.
Which would you rather have?
- David Price for a year, along with a draft pick after losing him
- David Price for several years, many millions
- Max Scherzer for several years, many millions, along with a huge prospect haul after trading David Price
In essence, that third reason is why the Tigers would look to deal Price and lock up Scherzer. We looked at previous big trades in an attempt to guess what Price's return could be, but there are two main reasons why the Tigers would choose this option.
The biggest reason why a "trade Price, sign Scherzer" makes sense is the immediate return that this scenario provides. The Tigers would in effect be missing out on two first round draft picks in this case, but the players they receive for Price would be much closer to contributing in 2015 than any draft pick.
Is this the smartest long-term solution? Not necessarily, but draft picks can be even riskier propositions than top prospects, and the Tigers are all-in for the near future. Trading Price may extend their window by a year or two, depending on the players they receive. Plus, the move helps them shore up other holes on the roster, particularly if the return includes a decent corner outfielder.
The other main reason why a Price trade makes sense is because of the Tigers' current payroll situation. No, I'm not talking about the luxury tax (though that is playing a role). I'm talking about next offseason. Both Price and Rick Porcello are free agents after the 2015 season, and a worst case scenario for the Tigers could involve them losing both pitchers via free agency. Draft picks be damned, a rotation with three big question marks is not something a "win-now" team should have.
By trading Price and extending Scherzer, you eliminate some of that risk. Losing Porcello to free agency stings much less if your rotation is still headlined by Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez. With the majority of the roster under club control through the 2018 season, keeping a solid rotation intact is vital if the Tigers are to continue pursuing that coveted World Series title.
Should the Tigers trade Price and re-sign Scherzer? That's a complicated question with a lot of factors involved. But it's not as ridiculous of an idea as you might think.