After finally settling the rumor that would not die yesterday, the Tigers now have a new ongoing rumor to settle. Max Scherzer is still a free agent after the Winter Meetings, but the Tigers appear no more likely to re-sign the former Cy Young winner than they were at the beginning of the week. Yesterday's pair of trades effectively saw Alfredo Simon replace Rick Porcello in the starting rotation, leaving no apparent place for Scherzer if he were to return.
Dave Dombrowski was asked about the Scherzer situation during his media session yesterday, and his answer remained the same.
"Our situation with him has not changed whatsoever," Dombrowski said during the second session with the media. "Again, I'm not sure how many times we have to talk about this situation, but it keeps coming up.
"We love Max. He did a great job for us. We tried to sign him last spring. We really made an effort in that regard. I guess anything can happen, but we're not in active pursuit of that situation at this time. We're happy with our starting pitchers."
Once again, Dombrowski refrained from saying that Scherzer would not be back in Detroit. Scott Boras, Max's agent, said that the Tigers are aware that Max is open to a reunion.
"I've had this conversation with the Tigers about his willingness to return and that's been expressed at every level," Boras said.
Boras did not go into specifics about the Tigers or any other teams during his mid-week media session, but repeated his desire to communicate with owners when discussing Max's next contract.
"These types of contracts are ownership decisions," Boras said. "They affect whether a team is a championship-caliber team, they affect attendance, they affect media rights, they affect the value of the franchise."
Given what we have seen and heard from Dombrowski so far this offseason, any progress on a potential Scherzer return will likely come from the office of Mike Ilitch. The Tigers' aging owner loves his superstars, and it's anyone's guess as to how badly he wants to retain Scherzer in 2015 and beyond. Some have speculated that Mr. Ilitch was a bit miffed by Scherzer's refusal to sign a contract extension last offseason, but there have been no official statements beyond the puzzling press release the club issued last March.
If Scherzer doesn't re-sign with the Tigers, where will he end up? J_the_Man did a comprehensive breakdown of Scherzer's potential destinations yesterday, and there seems to be a surprising lack of interest in a pitcher of Scherzer's caliber. Sure, there are warning signs -- his age and relatively short peak aren't encouraging -- but he is unquestionably one of the best pitchers in baseball right now.
Wherever Scherzer ends up, he is guaranteed to cost a pretty penny. Scherzer and his agent are seeking over $200 million in guaranteed money in his next deal. While they may not reach that gaudy dollar amount, Scherzer is still a good bet to top the $155 million Jon Lester received from the Chicago Cubs earlier this week.
If the Tigers were to change their tune and re-sign Scherzer, who would he replace? Moving Alfredo Simon or Shane Greene to the bullpen seems like a safe bet, but it is also possible that the Tigers dump Simon to save the estimated $5.1 million he is set to earn in 2015. Greene could also be optioned to the minors, giving him more time to work on his changeup before he takes a spot in the rotation in 2016.