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The baseball winter meetings is one of the most exciting time periods involved with baseball. There is no actual baseball taking place but free agents usually begin to sign contracts. General managers get together and start discussing trade possibilities. The action is incredible. Every year it seems that there is a blockbuster signing, a dark-horse team landing a big free agent and a number of small moves that can become significant.
I’ve already discussed why the Cardinals should make a move for Jon Lester here. If the Cardinals are truly interested in Lester then one can assume they would be interested in Max Scherzer for many of the same reasons, other than he isn’t left-handed. Scherzer, a 30-year-old, right-hander that spent his high school days at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Missouri and his college days at Mizzou, would be a nice hometown fit. There is a legitimate concern when thinking of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha as being 100% reliable for the 2015 season. Scherzer would help to calm some of those nerves and most likely be a number one starter for three seasons before becoming something like a number two before diminishing at the end of his contract. Yet, Scherzer will not be giving any sort of discount to any team involved, including the St. Louis Cardinals.
Scherzer turned down a $144 million/6 year contract extension with Detroit in March. The move for Scherzer was something of a gamble, he came off a Cy Young season in 2013 in which he posted a 21-3 record, 214.1 IP, 240 K’s, 2.90 ERA, and .970 WHIP. In 2012, he had a solid year but his ERA was almost a run higher at 3.74. The Tigers offered a large extension, but Scherzer, under the direction of agent Scott Boras, declined the deal and pitched another great season in 2014, going 18-5, 220.1 IP, 252 K’s, 3.15 ERA, and 1.175 WHIP. Scherzer’s decision appears to be a smart move despite the plethora of available starting pitching that will be available this off-season and next.
Whether good or bad, Scott Boras clients typically take the most money that is offered to them. The Cardinals typically do not operate at giving above-market values. While this can still happen, the Cardinals are not going to. $144 million/6 years would be something most Redbird fans would be uncomfortable with. That is a lot of money and a lot of years for someone that is 30 and will turn 31 in the season, even if he is a home-town guy. The Cardinals organization would most likely be comfortable offering that sort of deal to Scherzer. However, that deal isn’t going to get it done.
Scherzer did not turn down $144,000,000, risk injury, risk poor performance, risk other pitchers having significantly better seasons, and risk more pitchers being on the market (which is happening) to take the same amount offered. With risk, comes reward. Scherzer gambled on himself and won. Now he is going to be compensated for that gamble. His compensation will be a 7th or 8th year on a contract and the additional money that comes along with it. This sort of compensation is something the Cardinals will not be comfortable with doing and they would be right to hold off getting in a bidding war with a guy who wants exactly that over all else, a bidding war.
Scherzer would be great for St. Louis. He will be great for any team he decides to go to. However, he is going to get more money than Jon Lester. Boras usually finds a way to get the most, holding out as long as he can. Lester will find a deal he likes and will take it if it is close to the number he is looking to take. Scherzer would take over as the ace as Wainwright ages. He would allow Wacha to develop as the ace in the coming seasons. The postseason would be fantastic to watch for the Cardinals as they run out three top-pitchers in each series for the next three seasons. Opposing lineups would be terrified to have to face these pitchers twice in a series. This is a dream, a pleasant dream. This is a dream you don’t want to wake up from, when you wake-up your heart is racing with the excitement of hoisting multiple titles. You search around, flipping through your phone, hoping the Scherzer signing was true. When you find no evidence your heart sinks, but then as you fully wake you realize it’s time to stop dreaming and start back to reality.