Before last week's three team trade, there were rumblings that the Tigers were interested in re-signing right-hander Max Scherzer. The best pitcher on the free agent market, Scherzer will likely command north of $150 million on a lengthy contract.
Now, with Greene in the fold, the Tigers may not be so keen on spending all that money. Greene slots nicely into the back of the rotation, giving the Tigers a starting five of him, Justin Verlander, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Anibal Sanchez. Kyle Lobstein leads a group of minor league pitchers who could step into a starting role if someone falters.
Greene's presence in the rotation is necessary, particularly because of his league minimum salary. If Scherzer were re-signed, that would give the Tigers five starters making $12 million or more in 2015. This could be fixed by trading another starter, though. The Tigers have received plenty of interest in both Price and Porcello, though the only concrete rumor we've heard -- Porcello for Boston's Yoenis Cespedes -- is not very enticing.
Dave Dombrowski did not specifically comment on whether the Tigers would continue to pursue Scherzer. As usual, what little he did say left plenty of room for speculation. "You never close the door to anything, because you never know what happens," Dombrowski said. Tony Paul of the Detroit News took those words to mean that the Tigers would still get involved if they saw the right opportunity.
My take? Don't expect a move unless someone blows them away with a trade proposal for Price or Porcello. Dombrowski said that the Tigers "are set with the rotation at this point," which makes sense. They have five solid starters. Only one -- Verlander -- is signed to a lengthy contract that the team will eventually regret. They don't need a second such pitcher.
Agent Scott Boras has already iterated that he wants to negotiate with owners, not general managers, and he and Mike Ilitch have a history together. Ilitch made the decision to sign Prince Fielder to a nine year, $214 million contract. Dave Dombrowski was able to wiggle his way out from under the massive contract last winter when he traded Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. If Dombrowski has his way, he likely will not saddle himself with yet another large contract for a player who is about to begin the decline phase of his career.
The timing of the 'trade Price, re-sign Scherzer' idea is also an obstacle. This week's Winter Meetings would be the most likely time for the Tigers to trade a starter. We have seen the Tigers make several big moves this month during Dave Dombrowski's tenure, and I wouldn't put it past him to do it again this year. However, trading Price or Porcello gives Scott Boras a huge piece of leverage in negotiations for Scherzer, further driving up an already likely-to-be-ridiculous asking price.
The reverse may be true as well. If the Tigers re-sign Scherzer before trading another starter, teams may not be as likely to cough up prime talent. Plus, a trade in January or February is less likely to happen, as many teams will have already filled their rotation needs in earlier months.
All in all, it seems like there are too many obstacles impeding a potential reunion between Scherzer and the Tigers. The Tigers will have plenty of questions to answer over the course of the next season as Price and Porcello reach free agency, but the flexibility offered by letting Scherzer sign elsewhere seems to be more valuable than locking up the former Cy Young winner to an expensive contract.