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Max Scherzer sets Opening Day deadline for contract extension negotiations

If the Tigers want to lock-in Max Scherzer to a long-term deal, they have only six weeks to do so. Scherzer confirmed he will not talk contract during the season, calling negotiations a 'major distraction,' unfair to the team and his teammates.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Today in Lakeland, Max Scherzer laid down the gauntlet when it comes to a contract extension withe Detroit Tigers. Friday afternoon, the reigning AL Cy Young confirmed his drop dead date for negotiating an extension is Opening Day. As he stated during the Winter Caravan, Scherzer does not want any distractions during the season. And distractions don't get much bigger than negotiating a life-altering contract which could be worth north of nine figures.

If the Tigers are to meet their 'Win the World Series or bust' expectations, they need a focused Scherzer to have a solid followup to his career best 2013, joining Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. to give the team a top-tier one-two-three punch at the top of the rotation.

Speaking to the media in Lakeland, Scherzer was adamant about his deadline.

"If it's not done by Opening Day, I won't negotiate during the season. I understand that I have a chance to secure my future here with the team -- I want that to happen. But at the same time, I'm not going to drag negotiations out into the season. That's unfair to the team, me and my teammates."

The reason why is a simple one.

This can be a major distraction. I understand I have a chance to secure my future here with the team. I want that to happen."

Scherzer and the Tigers recently avoided arbitration when they agreed upon one-year, $15.525 million contract. But always lurking in the background is Scherzer's status as a pending free agent, and the possibility agent Scott Boras will price the Tigers' ace at a rate the team would be unable or unwilling to meet.

Staying true to his previous statements about his pending free agency, Scherzer once again reiterated he would prefer to remain a Tiger.

"Of course. "I said the same thing during TigerFest."

When asked if Boras and the Tigers could come to an agreement by the deadline, Scherzer couldn't give an answer. But he did say he negotiations could continue after the season.

"I hope it does. But in reality, you can never dictate whether these things happen or not. If it does, great. If not, well, hopefully, we can resolve it in November."

The Tigers are long on record with their desire to  sign Scherzer long-term. In his most recent statement on Scherzer's contract status, GM Dave Dombrowski continued to state the party line, saying the team wants to keep Scherzer part of the organization, but would not talk publicly about negations. Scherzer feels the same way.

"I'm not discussing negotiations in the media. Those are private."

Scherzer was the only 20-game winner in MLB last season, recording a 21-3 record with a 2.90 ERA. He lead the AL with a 0.970 WHIP while finishing second in strikeouts with 240 and in K/9 at 10.078.