On Scherzer, Shields and leverage

As Spring Training starts to become visible on the horizon of the baseball calendar, the questions in baseball circles become louder: What’s going on with Max Scherzer? What’s going on with James Shields? Is anybody going after them? Has anybody heard anything?

The free-agent market has had plenty of top names still available at this point in the offseason over the years. That’s nothing new. It’s less common to have two big names — two of the biggest names on the market going into the offseason, at that — in this situation.

It’s rare for those two still on the market to play the same position. It’s stranger still that no team has been tied to both players, seemingly trying to play one against the other. Between different ages, workloads and resumes, they’ve always been viewed as appealing to different markets.

It was under that backdrop that Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network chimed in Friday afternoon amidst the flurry of arbitration signings.

So much for not having one team linked to both pitchers. Whether it’s a genuine pursuit or a leverage play remains to be seen.

Detroit has been tied to Scherzer for months — oftentimes for good reason, and other times simply by default. With nobody else identifying themselves as a suitor, the Tigers have been viewed as the favorites to sign Scherzer, even as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and other Tigers official downplay the chances.

Dombrowski added another entry there this week at the MLB owners meetings, where Ken Davidoff of the New York Post asked him again about the possibility of bringing back Scherzer.

“I would say no, probably not,” Dombrowski told Davidoff.

It was a stronger statement than previous remarks. It was still not a definite no.

On the flip side, until Friday, the Tigers had never been linked to Shields, their division rival in Kansas City for the past two seasons and a familiar nemesis in Tampa Bay before that. There have been no signs he was a topic for discussion going into the offseason, or that he drew any contact at the GM Meetings in November or Winter Meetings in December. Even industry people familiar with the Tigers’ approach, who have been following the Tigers’ moves this offseason, were befuddled at the idea.

Yet in mid-January, as the Scherzer market stagnates, the rumor leaked.

Dombrowski, who has a policy of not talking about free agents from other clubs, said in email later Friday that the Tigers are not in active pursuit of any starting pitchers right now. It’s the same stance they’ve had in regards to Scherzer rumors, but with Scherzer, it did more to suggest a waiting game. No active pursuit? Fine. No interest? No chance? Those have never been said, even this week. With Scherzer, his agent Scott Boras, and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, there has always seemingly been a chance for a deal.

Those ties aren’t there with Shields. Ilitch has a history of working out late offseason deals with Boras, and a history of loyalty to those who win for him. While Scherzer has that, Shields does not. He does not have the same track record, for that matter.

Shields is 2 1/2 years older than Scherzer, with nearly 700 more innings pitched. For that reason and others, he has always been expected to garner a shorter, team-friendlier contract, though a five-year contract for Shields would take him to the same age as a seven-year contract would for Scherzer. That has also widened Shields’ market and set up the potential for a bidding competition when the market does get moving.

For all the risks with Scherzer, one can still envision the Tigers make room for a return, for either Ilitch to stretch the payroll and pay luxury tax for a year or for Dombrowski to trade Price to make room. It’s tougher to see the Tigers going to those lengths for Shields, who will turn 34 years old when Price is eligible for free agency next winter. Shields might be more affordable than Scherzer, but that still doesn’t mean the Tigers can afford him and Price long term.

Bottom line, it’s difficult to see Shields suddenly fitting with the Tigers. It’s not as difficult to see a call to Shields — active pursuit or no — acting as a catalyst on Scherzer. Time will tell.

14 Comments

I believe that some one is blowing smoke ,, They are making Tigers fans all excited and there proudly nothing going to happen It will come down to what Dave DaBraski wants ,,, If he wants Max or he wants Shields ,,,Mr. Illich will give to the Dave DaBraski because he trust him to make the right deecision .and they will worry about money later .

For a contract this size, it’s all about what Ilitch wants. Dombrowski will give his input, but if Ilitch wants Scherzer, they’ll go for Scherzer.

So Porcello got 12.5 million for 1 year. How about 4 year, 80 million for Shields? Riddle me this, why do the games take soooooooo long to play these days? Hey Lester, I am not talking about a time limit. Maybe the umpires can help out. Call more strikes and call a ball on the pitcher and not let the batter step out after every pitch. Just sayin’

Well, this is almost as bad as waiting for Lester to make up his mind. I got so tired of waiting on him and his decision. Someone will sign Scherzer but it won’t be the Tigers.
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Hey, DB, about the long games, there has been talk of changes to all minor league teams starting this spring. I think it’s re: hitters stepping in and out of the batters box and so many seconds for the pitcher to throw. Please, enough of the stepping in and out of the box to re-wrap your gloves. That was a Jeter trademark.

Nomar Garciaparra with the batting gloves thing.
Anyone consider the time of game is prolonged by all the pitching changes? This season time the first 5-6 innings against the final 3-4 innings.
I believe the stats show that umpires are calling more strikes than ever.
Create too many rules and you’ve got the NFL. You don’t want that.

I forgot about Nomar. He was obsessive.

I like long games. wish they were longer. wish one was on right now, in fact.

Blame Moneyball: OBP and working the count as many expect the Tigers to do. There is an almost never enforced time limit for pitchers( Thanks for that say Valverde and Penny)

Tigers are in a situation where signing a free agent starter benefits both the rotation and the bullpen, presuming Simon is bumped there. Two for the price of one as Ernie would say.
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A move now limits, to a certain extent, future moves. I do wonder if we’ve seen the last of Porcello, or whether this will be just a one year hiatus in Boston. Free agency next season would give him the opportunity to return. Same with Fister, though less likely.

The Tigers could be above the luxury tax limit. Adding Kimbrel wont hurt them. They will eat Nathan contract before May.
They woul need to send half of the Erie´s roster but he is worth that

Mike Hargrove did not speed things up. I agree Rich, the last 3 innings can be longer than the first 6. No more rules, just enforce the ones we have.

I must be missing something with respect to Alfredo Simon. I don’t really enjoy talking salary but it seems to me he is way over-valued. Comparatively, AlAl is bargain.
I think we are going to see a really good performance again from Al.
Shields? OK–I see the point about him being a horse and all but he was “not so big game James” in the playoffs and World Series. Should that be a concern?

Nats or TIgers to sign Scherzer?

7 years. If Boras sticks to his word, The Tigers got the chance to match the Nats. I hope not

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