Results tagged ‘ Max Scherzer ’

Still no deal between Tigers, Scherzer

The Tigers’ perfect record of avoiding arbitration hearings under Dave Dombrowski’s watch is in serious jeopardy, more than at any other time since he took over GM duties in 2002. With no signs of a deal between the Tigers and Max Scherzer, the two sides are heading closer towards an arbitration panel to hear the matter.

The Tigers and Scherzer stood $1.35 million apart when they filed numbers two weeks ago. They continue to talk, but they still have a distance to gap, and they’re running out of time.

Three-person arbitration panels are scheduled to begin hearings next week in Arizona. A hearing date for Scherzer’s case has been set, but so far, the date has been kept private out of mutual interest. Arbitrators aren’t told ahead of time whose case they’ll be hearing on a given day, and giving a date for players would allow them to put the pieces together and start doing advance research if they so choose.

No Tiger has gone to an arbitration hearing since Dave Dombrowski replaced Randy Smith as general manager in 2002. They’ve come close a couple of times, notably when Justin Verlander became eligible for arbitration in 2009.The Tigers’ goal with arbitration cases under Dombrowski and baseball legal counsel John Westhoff has been to reach a deal with players before exchanging numbers, but that happened a couple weeks ago. They’ve exchanged numbers more often in recent years as their young players have gotten better, but they’ve usually settled those soon after the exchange once a middle ground was clearly established. Given that history, it would be a stretch to suggest the gap between Scherzer and the Tigers is small, though their gap in salaries submitted isn’t as big as what the Tigers faced with Verlander.

Part of the appeal in those cases is the knowledge that arbitration panels have to accept one of the two offers submitted. Unlike in hockey, a ruling can’t give a player a salary in the middle.

Thus, if the case goes to a hearing, Scherzer would either get $7.4 million or $6.05 million.

Scherzer made $3.75 million last year as a first-time arbitration eligible. A victory for him would just about double his salary. Unlike last offseason, his arbitration case will be judged on last season’s numbers alone.

Scherzer set career highs with 16 wins and 231 strikeouts last year, and was in a tight race with teammate Justin Verlander for the Major League lead in the latter category before shoulder soreness knocked Scherzer out of one start and scratched him from another. It also left him with 187 2/3 innings after back-to-back seasons with at least 195 innings.

Despite the shoulder questions, Scherzer made three starts in the postseason, striking out 26 batters over 18 1/3 innings on 12 hits and four walks.

Super-agent Scott Boras represents Scherzer, but Boras and the Tigers have a history of settling gaps with arbitration-eligible players; Boras’ tough negotiations are usually reserved for free agents. He usually encourages players against signing long-term deals avoiding arbitration, not short-term ones, so that they can still test the open market when they become eligible.

That said, Boras is known for keeping a binder’s worth of statistics on his clients, normally for free agents but also for arbitration’s sake.

Technically, the Tigers’ negotiation with Scherzer could actually stretch past a hearing. The two sides are allowed to seek a settlement all the way until an arbitration panel makes its decision. Once a team has to go to a hearing, though, the chances of compromise on a middle ground drop dramatically.

Seven eligible Tigers file for arbitration

It’s a formality, but still worth noting that the seven Tigers eligible for arbitration all filed on Tuesday. The list includes three members of rotation (Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello), two members of the starting lineup (Alex Avila, Austin Jackson), lefty Phil Coke and outfielder Brennan Boesch.

Basically, what it means is that none of them have apparently reached deals yet to avoid arbitration. There’s still plenty of time for that, but the next big milepost in the process will come on Friday, when they’ll exchange arbitration figures with the team. That’s usually the step that gets both sides moving towards a deal, because it provides a range to use to find a middle ground. From there, the two sides have until at least Feb. 4 to negotiate before hearings begin taking place.

The Tigers have not had to go to an arbitration ruling since Dave Dombrowski took over as GM in 2002. They’ve come close a couple times, but usually they settle soon after the two sides exchange numbers.

What Greinke deal means for Sanchez, Verlander

Now this offseason market gets real for the Tigers.

I’m off for vacation heading into the holidays, so I won’t be writing about it much the next couple weeks, but I thought it was worth a blog post to set the scene. Because now that Zack Greinke has his deal — reportedly six years and $147 million from the Dodgers — the pitching market is set for others to follow. That includes Anibal Sanchez, regarded by many as the next-best free-agent starter on the market.

For the Tigers’ purposes, that also means Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both two years away from free agency (when most teams try to lock up the starting pitchers they covet while security is still a big deal for them).

The belief going into the Winter Meetings was that a Greinke deal with the Dodgers would be good for the Tigers, because it would take this offseason’s biggest spenders out of the market for Sanchez. None of the other potential suitors have the financial might that the Dodgers do with new local television money coming.

Well, Greinke is a Dodger, but it’s no longer a certainty that Los Angeles will stop there. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Dodgers have interest in both Sanchez and fellow free agent Kyle Lohse. Whether that interest has a financial limit remains to be seen; the Dodgers payroll is picking up speed towards $200 million. But if they’re interested, they’re going to be a major factor that might force the Tigers to make a very difficult decision.

So, too, could the Rangers, if they want to make a pitch for Sanchez after losing out on Greinke. So, too, could a couple other teams. Maybe the Angels, still with room for a starter, try to answer their neighbors’ news. Maybe the Royals, who have made pitching their top priority this winter, could make a run after all. Maybe the Red Sox try to bring back their former prospect. Maybe a contending team in need of a starter has been quietly waiting for the Sanchez bidding to pick up so it can make a move.

Greinke’s contract didn’t get into the $160+ million territory that had been rumored, but it’ll still rank as the highest average annual salary for a right-handed pitcher (CC Sabathia still holds the overall pitching mark at just under $25 million). Sanchez isn’t in that class, but Greinke’s contract will still have a major impact. Sanchez is just four months younger than Greinke, but he has more than 600 fewer Major League innings of wear and tear. He isn’t nearly as proven, but he also isn’t as taxed.

One talent evaluator observing the Sanchez situation at the Winter Meetings said he doesn’t believe Sanchez will get as much money as many might expects. He might get the years, but not the money. That’s all relative, of course, but it’ll be interesting to watch.

But you know who is easily in Greinke’s class, even above it? Justin Verlander. He’s eight months older, and he has more innings, but he has a lot more accomplished on his resume as well. If Greinke is worth just under $25 million, what could Verlander get on the market in two years, still in his early 30s?

It’s the Tigers’ goal to make sure it never gets to that point. It won’t be cheap, but Verlander’s a superstar, and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch loves having superstar players. If it’s going to happen, this is the offseason to do it. But Greinke’s contract shifts the market a little bit, both in money and in years.

Scherzer, too, is two years out from the open market. He doesn’t have nearly the resume, but he’s coming off the best season of his career (though 2010 is close on the secondary numbers). He also has Scott Boras, an agent who eschews long-term contracts before a pitcher hits the open market. If the Tigers are going to make Scherzer a Tiger for years to come, it is not going to be easy. What Greinke’s deal does for Scherzer is show that you don’t have to be a true ace to get a big-time contract. That, too, is dangerous for the Tigers.

Dombrowski’s end-of-season remarks (with notes)

There are few things faster in baseball these days than a Bruce Rondon fastball. It has been clocked as high as 102 mph, including during the Futures Game in July at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.

The only thing faster in the Tigers organization than Rondon’s fastball might be the track he’s on.

Dave Dombrowski’s end-of-season remarks are an annual tradition now, painting the roadmap for the Tigers offseason, both for what they might look to do and what their plans are with pending players. It also seems there’s usually a prospect or two that gets some lift out of it.

Three years ago, it was Scott Sizemore. Last year, Drew Smyly got a mention. Today might well go down as the day Dombrowski set the path for Rondon.

Everybody figured him to be a closer of the future with these guys. Tuesday was the day we found just how near that future might be.

“I would not discount Bruce Rondon in the competition for our closer role for next year,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be our closer, but I do not discount him in that role.

“He is a guy that throws — and people don’t sometimes believe this, but it is true — he averages 100 miles an hour and topped off at 103, and throws his breaking stuff for consistent strikes.”

Dombrowski confirmed what others had speculated, that Rondon was a serious consideration for a call-up leading into September this year, which would’ve made him eligible for the postseason roster. Had they known that Valverde was going to struggle the way they did, they would’ve done it, which would’ve put a whole different look on Detroit’s closer by committee.

“This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer,” Dombrowski continued, “and normally you’re not going to thrust that in a young guy’s hands and say automatically, ‘It’s your job.’ But it would not surprise me if he earned that job. With the number of good arms that are out there, there are not many arms like this, and he cherishes that type of role.”

Dombrowski wasn’t the only one touting Rondon. When Leyland was asked about the difference between going with a closer by committee in a postseason and doing that for a full season, he hesitated.

“I’ve handled those situations before, but who’s to say we won’t have a closer,” Leyland countered. “I think we will have a closer. I think it might be a surprise closer, but I think we might have one. And I’m not talking about Phil Coke, by the way. Not that I don’t like Phil Coke.”

Someone then mentioned Rondon.

“Rondon’s a good name. Here’s a kid, who knows? Believe me, I’m not putting my blessing on Rondon as a closer for next year, but I’m just mentioning that name as a possibility. When you’ve got an arm like that, that’s a possibility. Now, could he handle it mentally, could he handle it in a three-tier stadium with the bright lights? I don’t have a clue.”

It’s an interesting contrast. The last Tigers reliever who threw as hard as Bruce Rondon does was Joel Zumaya, who crashed the roster to become a force in a setup relief role in 2006. At no point did Zumaya ever earn the closer’s job, partly because of injuries but not entirely.

The last rookie to have any sort of closing job in Detroit was Franklyn German, who shared the job in 2003. However, a closer’s role on a 43-119 team isn’t exactly like a regular job. German shared the team lead in saves — with five.

If you count Fernando Rodney’s time down the stretch in 2005, the Tigers have had experienced closers in the role every year since 2006.

“You see [Aroldis] Chapman close and there’s been other young guys close for clubs,” Dombrowski said. “I know it hasn’t been our normal situation. People know how good an arm Zumaya had, this guy has every bit and it comes out easier with less effort in his delivery.”

Dombrowski is aware of their track record. He’s also well-aware he has a team that’s expected to win next year, a team that opened as a World Series favorite this week.

“I think you also have to be open-minded and flexible,” Dombrowski said. “It’s just like a couple years ago when in 2006, Verlander and Zumaya jumped up pretty good for us at that point. This guy [Rondon] is a talented guy. He’s a rare talent. You would not believe the number of clubs that called me about Bruce Rondon to trade him. If I had a choice of any young closer in baseball to give an opportunity to in any organization, it would be him. Now would be ready? I don’t know that. But he is that good.”

Here’s a roundup of the other remarks he had:

  • Dombrowski was on the fence on whether Dirks has a full-time starting role for next year: “Dirks is a good player. Is he an every-day player at this point? I don’t know. He might be. I know he’s a real good player. Can he combine with somebody? So I think we’ll just kind of look at that.”
  • Dombrowski poo-poohed the idea that they could non-tender Brennan Boesch. “We’ll tender him a contract,” Dombrowski said. “He’s not where we would like him to be at this point, because if we did he’d have been on our roster for the postseason, so that’s a pretty obvious summation. But I think it’s the case that he still has ability, he can still hit the ball out of the ballpark. We still see some untapped potential, and he has struggled some.”
  • When asked what went wrong in the World Series, Dombrowski cited the offense, and pointed to an article that said they went 1-for-17 when putting pitches in play that were over the middle of the plate (not sure which article, otherwise I’d provide a link). “They pitched well,” Dombrowski said, “but we also didn’t hit the pitches we could handle. Why didn’t they do that? Was the timing a little bit off? Maybe. Did they keep off timing with the layover, did they keep them off-balance with the stuff that they threw, changing speeds? I’m sure that, too. Did they start pressing a little bit, try to do too much? Maybe a combination of all that. But it’s almost hard to believe when you say they went 1-for-17 on balls down the middle of the plate.”
  • Quintin Berry will go into camp with a chance to compete for a spot on the roster. Coincidentally, Leyland said that with Victor Martinez back, they’ll have a use for a pinch-runner on their bench.
  • The Tigers will designate Don Kelly for assignment later on this week, Dombrowski said, to open a spot on the 40-man roster. From there, clubs will have a chance to claim him, just as they did when the Tigers designated him in August. If he isn’t claimed, however, the Tigers would like to bring him back on a minor-league contract to compete for a roster spot. “He knows how well thought of he is here,” Dombrowski said. “But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity. That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents.”
  • No comment on the status of Ryan Raburn, because Dombrowski hasn’t had a chance to talk with him yet. They still have him under team control for a year, so technically they don’t have to do anything if they want to keep him. If they want to use his roster spot for someone else, well, that’s another matter, and one they would probably want to talk with him about.
  • Dombrowski did not want to get into the possibility of contract talks with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both two years away from free agency. That’s a matter he still has to discuss with ownership. However, he said they’d like to have both for a long time.
  • Avisail Garcia, Dombrowski said, is a “tough call” on whether he makes the roster next year. “He has star potential,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a five-tool player. I’m not sure that he’s ready as a corner outfielder to give us the contributions that we need on an overall basis at this time, but I’m not sure that he’s not. He is going to play everyday in winter ball for Magglio’s team in Venezuela. I think he’s a guy that we’ll keep a real close eye on in how he develops over the wintertime.”
  • If the Tigers can’t re-sign Sanchez, Dombrowski didn’t sound particularly strong about getting another starter to fill his spot, saying it would have to be a substantial improvement over what they have.
  • Smyly would not be viewed as a full-time reliever.
  • Dombrowski is not concerned about Scherzer going into the offseason. “What happened,” Dombrowski said, “was [his shoulder] got tired like a lot of your muscles get tired, and it’s just more a mater of it needing some rest and then building it back up. So he got some rest and built it back up, but at that time period you don’t have a chance to go out there every five days and build it up. So the feeling is with Scherzer that he’ll be absolutely fine.”
  • A second lefty reliever isn’t a high priority for the Tigers to acquire this winter. Dombrowski believes they can fill the spot in-house, though he didn’t rule out adding an arm.

Scherzer improving, not yet throwing

The good news for the Tigers on injured starter Max Scherzer was that he said his shoulder felt better on Friday than it did on Thursday.

“I do have more range than I did yesterday,” Scherzer said Friday afternoon from Target Field, “so it’s a step in the right direction.”

The bad news, or at least the non-news, for the Tigers is that it doesn’t make Scherzer’s return any clearer, either for the regular season or beyond. At this point, you could pretty much flip a coin on whether he’ll start Wednesday at Kansas City.

“If I had to handicap it, I’d say maybe 50-50 for Wednesday,” manager Jim Leyland said, “but I’m not counting on it.”

The deltoid soreness that scuttled any plans of starting him against the Twins Friday night, Scherzer said, “should subside fairly soon.” From there, however, there remains the process of getting his arm stretched out and pitching tested.

His final hurdle to pitching in a game will be a full bullpen session, in which he throws all of his pitches off a mound. Whether he can do that in the next three or four days is anything but clear.

“From a physical standpoint, I think I could be there,” Scherzer said, “but I have to be smart and not get caught up in that.”

Scherzer also said he can’t get caught up in the playoff race and try to push himself if he isn’t ready. Yet if the division title isn’t still in play, Scherzer probably isn’t going to be pitching Wednesday in Kansas City.

“If we’re in or out [of the postseason] by then, Scherzer will not pitch [Wednesday] under any circumstances,” Leyland said.

If Scherzer doesn’t start on Wednesday, Leyland said, Drew Smyly will get the assignment.

Scherzer, Strasburg put up dueling outings in strikeout race

The pitching story in Detroit rigtht now is Max Scherzer trying to succeed Justin Verlander for the Major League strikeout crown. For now, at least, the national race also has Stephen Strasburg in it.

While Scherzer’s seven-inning, eight-strikeout performance pushed him past Verlander for the AL strikeout lead and R.A. Dickey atop the Major League leaderboard, Strasburg was simultaneously dealing in Washington, where he struck out 10 Atlanta Braves over six innings of four-hit, one-run ball for his 15th win. Strasburg (183) passed up Dickey (181) for the NL lead, but fell a few short of Scherzer (186).

Scherzer still leads Strasburg in strikeout rate, but barely. Strasburg bumped his rate to 11.33, just behind Scherzer at 11.34. At this point, you have to stretch it out three decimal points to figure out whether Scherzer has a higher rate than Kerry Wood’s mark in 2003 (11.345 for Wood, 11.336 for Scherzer).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that the Nationals have a innings range for Strasburg in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. If general manager Mike Rizzo holds to it, it’s difficult to envision Strasburg racking up enough strikeouts to lead the big leagues at season’s end if everyone else has at least two or three extra starts. For now, though, it’s quite a race. He could still beat out Scherzer for strikeout rate if he finishes with at least 162 innings pitched.

And it’s not just Strasburg. Add Felix Hernandez (179) to Verlander, Dickey, Strasburg, Scherzer, and five pitchers sit within 11 strikeouts of each other for the lead. All but Verlander started Monday or Tuesday, and Verlander will pitch Thursday.

Tigers reach deals with Kelly, Scherzer, Young

For a 10th consecutive year, the Tigers have avoided going to arbitration. This time, they didn’t get past the day numbers were exchanged.

On the day arbitration-eligible players and teams exchange numbers, the Tigers found a middle ground with their remaining three eligible players and settled. They agreed to one-year deals with right-hander Max Scherzer, outfielder Delmon Young and utilityman Don Kelly.

Kelly will earn $900,000 this coming season. Young and the Tigers settled for $6.75 million, according to CBSSports.com, which also reported Scherzer’s salary $3.75 million plus bonuses.

Kelly’s contract shows the value of versatility on the market. He made his case with two years of solid utility work, playing in 231 games combined over the last two seasons. He batted .245 (63-for-257) last year with eight doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 28 RBIs and a .672 OPS. He also pitched in one game and caught in another during the same week in late June and early July.

Kelly was eligible for arbitration for the first time after 11 years in pro baseball. The 27-year-old Scherzer had to wait a little less after his Major League debut in 2008 and three seasons in a rotation after that, the last two with the Tigers.

In terms of victories, last season was the best for Scherzer, who went 15-9 despite a career-high 4.43 ERA. He struck out 174 batters over 195 innings while allowing 207 hits and 29 home runs. He has 94 starts over the last three years, including a career-high 33 in 2011.

Young was expected to be the most challenging case, partly because he’s a year away from free agency, partly because he had what seemed like two different seasons — an early-season struggle with Minnesota before a late-season surge in Detroit.

The 26-year-old ended up with a .268 average with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs in 124 games before hitting five postseason runs in the Tigers’ run to the American League Championship Series.

The Tigers haven’t faced an arbitration ruling since Dave Dombrowski took over as general manager in 2002.

No on Verlander, very much yes on Scherzer

Justin Verlander threw his side session in the visiting bullpen at Yankee Stadium earlier today, well before batting practice. If you were still hoping, after all that Jim Leyland has said the last couple days about not using him in Game 5, that he would be available in relief tonight, that’s definitive news that he won’t.  If he was going to pitch in relief, the Tigers would have held him back from his side session and saved those throws. The fact that he threw today means the Tigers want him ready for Game 1 of the ALCS, if they get there.

Max Scherzer is another story. Leyland told reporters after his press conference that Scherzer told pitching coach Jeff Jones he felt he could throw 100 pitches tonight. Doesn’t mean he will, obviously, but it means he has a fresh arm if they need it.

“If we need to go long, I’m going to go to Scherzer,” Leyland said. “If we get to the late innings, I’m going to [Joaquin] Benoit and [Jose] Valverde. It’s that simple. If I need Coke to get one lefty out in a big situation, I would probably go to him. Other than that, you would probably not see any other pitchers tonight. If you do, we got beat.”

In fact, if Leyland has to go to his bullpen in the middle innings, he might turn to Scherzer.

If the Tigers use any relievers besides those four, and it isn’t extra innings, it’s not a good sign.

Tigers rotation order just about set

We already knew that Justin Verlander would start the Division Series opener next Friday and a potential Game 5. Today, Jim Leyland told Tigers radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Dickerson that Doug Fister will start Game 2, regardless of opponent. That has been confirmed. That would leave Max Scherzer to start Game 3.

The fourth starter hasn’t yet been revealed. Rick Porcello is set to pitch tomorrow and then stay on turn to pitch the regular-season finale Wednesday night. If that sticks, it would put Porcello in line for five days of rest before Game 4. Brad Penny’s final regular-season start is scheduled for Sunday.

That order will stick, Leyland said, regardless of who the Tigers play in the Division Series.

Postseason roster, rotation getting a few hints

Jim Leyland isn’t close to determining his postseason roster or rotation, he said Tuesday. But he laid a few hints towards the formation of it.

  • Jacob Turner will start Thursday’s series opener against Baltimore. Doug Fister will be pushed up tomorrow night to piggyback Max Scherzer’s start here in Kansas City. Leyland didn’t explain it, but he didn’t have to: Five days from Wednesday is next Monday, and five days from that is Saturday, the date for Game 2 of the AL Division Series. By moving up Fister, Leyland gives himself the option of starting Fister in Game 2 on regular rest.
  • Leyland said he’s “95 percent sure we will have an extra player, because we will have 11 pitchers.” The Tigers need just four starters for the postseason, not five. That spot that would normally go to a starter can go to either a reliever or a position player. Leyland all but confirmed it’s a position player.
  • Leyland said he doesn’t think Victor Martinez will catch a game again this regular season. Combine this bullet point with the one above, and Omir Santos’ chances of making the postseason roster as a backup catcher look better than they did last week.
  • No idea yet whether Carlos Guillen will be ready for the postseason. Guillen said today he’s feeling a little better, but it’s still very sore, and he still can’t so much as hit. He’s believed to be another candidate for that final spot, but Leyland confirmed that if Guillen can’t play in a regular season game the rest of the way, he won’t be on the Division Series roster.
  • Al Alburquerque is slated to pitch in relief tonight. If that goes all right, he should be good to go for the playoffs.
  • Leyland confirmed what he had already strongly suggested: Justin Verlander will be set up to pitch Game 1 and Game 5 in the Division Series.
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