Scherzer, Martinez decline qualifying offers
The Tigers made qualifying offers to Victor Martinez and Max Scherzer last week not expecting that either would accept them, but to make sure it would get a draft pick as compensation if either player signs elsewhere. Likewise, Monday’s news that Martinez and Scherzer rejected their qualifying offers doesn’t close the door on either one returning to the Tigers. It just means they’re not coming back for the one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer.
Given the expected market for both — and the market already emerging for Martinez — it would have been a shock if either one had accepted the offer. Both are in line for multi-year deals that will likely eclipse the annual value of the qualifying offer. Much of the process was a formality. What follows is anything but formal.
Though the free-agent market includes a handful of designated hitter options, the Tigers’ priority is to try to re-sign Martinez, whose MVP-caliber performance solidified Detroit’s lineup after Prince Fielder’s trade to Texas. Martinez’s .974 OPS led the Majors, while his .409 on-base percentage led the league, the latter helped in part by a league-high 28 intentional walks. His .335 batting average trailed only Houston’s Jose Altuve among AL hitters, and his career-high 32 home runs placed him eighth.
It was a rare career season for a player at age 35. While the Tigers don’t necessarily expect another season like that, notably from the power standpoint, his body of work over three seasons in Detroit — a .321 average, .868 OPS, as well as a .327 average with runners in scoring position — make him their preferred run producer.
The problem they face is that other teams appear to feel the same way. Reports from CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale peg Martinez as a priority target for the Seattle Mariners, where former Tigers manager hitting coach Lloyd McClendon is the manager and the front office is looking to boost the lineup around Robinson Cano. Heyman also reports interest from the Blue Jays, whose trade of Adam Lind opened a spot in the lineup to fit.
The future is clearer regarding Scherzer, arguably the top free agent on the market with a long-term deal in his future. Dombrowski downplayed the Tigers’ chances of re-signing Scherzer, who declined a six-year offer worth a reported $144 million from Detroit in Spring Training.
Though it’s difficult to rule out any deal with owner Mike Ilitch, who has built a history of paying big to add players and keep players who win for him, the Tigers are already expected to commit upwards of $75 million for the top four starters in their rotation. That said, the Tigers also have a history of making deals with free agents who linger on the market past the holidays.
Any compensation pick the Tigers receive would be tacked on at the end of the first round. Detroit currently holds the 25th overall pick in next June’s draft after the Mets gave up their pick to sign Michael Cuddyer on Monday.