January 23rd, 2014

Scherzer: “This is the place I want to be”

The Tigers had a slew of players available at Comerica Park this afternoon for an hour-long media session to lead off their winter caravan, but from the moment the doors opened, Max Scherzer was the headliner. He did not disappoint. Actually, judging by his willingness to discuss his contract situation, he might have surprised a little.

“We’ve had conversations,” he said. “The biggest thing was hammering out 2014 and getting the arb case settled. That was important for me to have that secured. …

“Honestly, this is the place I want to be. I’m comfortable here. I love being part of the Tigers. So hopefully we can get something done before Spring Training, otherwise I’m confident after the season we can completely resolve this.”

Those rank as the most upbeat quotes from either side on the chances at a contract extension. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has maintained that they want to keep Scherzer, but has left it at that. Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, has acknowledged Scherzer’s interest in staying in Detroit but has otherwise kept quiet, perhaps uncharacteristically so.

Scherzer decided coming in that he was going to be up-front about his situation, at least until he starts pitching again.

“I don’t have anything pressing,” Scherzer said. “Nothing’s pending or anything, but I’m sure conversations will pick up, and that’s something the front office and Scott will discuss at great length.”

They’ll discuss it in the few weeks leading up to Spring Training, and maybe as camp unfolds. Once the season begins, however, Scherzer doesn’t want to talk about a new deal, either with the Tigers or the press.

“Absolutely not,” Scherzer said. “That would be too much of a distraction to be sitting here thinking about that. If it doesn’t get done soon, then I’m more than comfortable playing 2014 on a one-year deal.”

Another strong season in 2014 could propel Scherzer into position as the top free agent in next winter’s market. He doesn’t need reminding of the ramifications. The former business economics student at the University of Missouri has served as the Tigers’ union representative, so he knows what each new standard-setting contract means for players and teams alike.

When asked his reaction to Clayton Kershaw’s record-setting contract, Scherzer laughed. But he also acknowledged the impact for others, including him.

“He’s on such a different planet, how good he is,” Scherzer said. “He’s in a different realm. I think that was a good thing for all of Major League Baseball.”

He also wasn’t going to deny the enticement of free agency, being able to choose where to play and let the market play out.

“That’s every player’s strategy. I mean, every player wants to be a free agent,” Scherzer said. “But at the same time, you realize we’ve got a good thing here in Detroit. We’ve got a great team, great teammates, so much talent and a chance to win it all. So for me, this is a place where I want to be.

“Going forward, I’m hopeful we can come to some terms on what we can do in the future. But if it doesn’t happen in the near term, I’m sure we can get this done in the offseason.”