DETROIT — For the Detroit Tigers, one of the larger goals prior to the 2014 season was to re-sign right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer to a long-term contract. They offered him a pretty penny in an effort to do just that, but Scherzer turned it down. With the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner now reportedly going to the Washington Nationals, the Tigers will head into the 2015 season with three ace-level pitchers and two question marks.
Aside from his first two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the only team Scherzer has played with has been the Tigers. In his seven years at the major league level, the 30-year-old put up a career-ERA of 3.58, a 3.39 FIP, and a 9.6 SO/9 in 1,239 innings pitched.
The deal was reported just as the hour passed into Monday morning, January 19, by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. Not an hour after the initial tweet, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal provided an update and reported that the amount was in excess of $180 million.
Max scherzer has an agreement on a 7-year deal with nats. Dollars are not known.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 19, 2015
Source: Scherzer seven-year deal with #Nationals will be for more than $180M.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 19, 2015
During his five years with the Tigers, Scherzer held a 3.52 ERA and a FIP of 3.32 in 161 games, striking out 1,081 batters and allowing 396 earned runs. He leaves Detroit for the nation's capital leading active pitchers in SO/9 with 9.593, a 6.0 WAR in 2014 that was sixth overall in the AL, and has made two All-Star appearances.
With the righty headed to the Nationals, the Tigers will receive a compensatory first-round draft pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, also known as the sandwich round. The Tigers are 23rd in the order for the initial round, 35th in the compensatory round.
Scherzer turned down a reported six-year, $144 million offer by the Tigers in the spring of 2014, opting for free agency instead. After the season, the Tigers made two offseason trades with the Red Sox and the Reds that brought Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon, and Alex Wilson to Detroit.
Tigers President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski then announced the club's starting rotation was set and stated the team was not "actively pursuing" the righty. Scherzer, who was seeking a contract in excess of $200 million after a 2014 season nearly identical to his career-year in 2013, remained on the market well after reporting dates for pitchers and catchers were announced in early January.
Several teams were rumored to be interested in Scherzer, including the Cardinals and the Yankees, although every team mentioned openly denied the reports. During the 2014 Winter Meetings, Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, also met with two unidentified teams regarding his client.
The Tigers are not devoid of a solid starting rotation, but there are doubts, even among the top three starters. Justin Verlander hasn't been himself in two years, Anibal Sanchez has dealt with injuries off and on since the Tigers acquired him, and David Price's future with the Tigers is uncertain beyond the 2015 season.
At this point, the Tigers can only guess as to what to expect from Greene and Simon. Greene is young and has only one season under his belt, and Simon needs to assuage concerns about his consistency. Regardless, questions regarding the rotation are going to remain as the team heads into spring training and well into the season.
In addition, with so much riding on Bruce Rondon performing well in the bullpen so soon after Tommy John surgery, keeping Simon in the starting rotation rather than relief adds a potential limitation to the late innings. How much that will hurt the Tigers in the long run, however, has yet to be revealed.