March 23rd, 2014

Talks break off between Tigers, Scherzer

The contract season for Max Scherzer is about to begin. The Tigers announced Sunday that talks have ended on a contract extension and won’t resume during the season, essentially guaranteeing Scherzer will become a free agent at season’s end.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters, and later released in a statement, that the team made what he called a “substantial offer” to Scherzer. Once that offer was declined, the two sides agreed to end talks for the spring.

“It was a very substantial offer that would place him among the highest-paid pitchers in the game,” Dombrowski said.

Scherzer is expected to talk about the situation later today. His situation was one of many topics between Dombrowski and agent Scott Boras, who also represents injured shortstop Jose Iglesias and free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew.

Both sides had said going in that they did not want to negotiate during the season. Dombrowski said they set a soft deadline for this past Wednesday, the lone off-day of camp, to determine whether a deal was realistic. Dombrowski said they did not want to be negotiating a new deal for Scherzer while sorting out the roster at the same time, though they were able to get a deal done for Justin Verlander in the final days of camp last year.

The Tigers’ final offer came about leading up to that point.

The situation puts Scherzer in position to go from a Cy Young award to the open market a year apart. Barring a serious dropoff in the follow-up to his Cy Young season, he’s expected to hit the market as one of the top free agents on the market at any position, and the top pitcher available. Given the recent contracts signed for top starting pitchers, the lure is obvious.

Before the final offer, the odds of a deal getting done were characterized by one source as unlikely.