I figure the St. Louis Cardinals have not one -- but two -- chances in a million to land starting pitcher Max Scherzer in the free agent derby this winter.
Chance number one involves Scherzer deciding that he's going to be insanely rich, no matter what happens, so he would just as soon pitch for his favorite team, the Cardinals. The other chance is that opposing general managers decide to avoid dealing with Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, and bypass the top-rated pitcher on the market to spend their money on more easily attainable options.
The later scenario is extremely unlikely -- even with the two spendiest teams supposedly on the sidelines. The Yankees have said they're not interested in Scherzer while the Los Angeles Dodgers are pretty much full to the brim with starting pitching. If the market low balls the Detroit Tigers ace, other teams will be attracted by the bargain and the price will go up.
So... if the Birds are interested, I think it's going to count on Scherzer turning up his nose at a larger payday to put on the uniform of his hometown team.
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It's the ultimate baseball fan dilemma: Would you take $140 million to play for your favorite team, in this case the Cardinals. Or would you accept $200 million to play for their arch-rivals, in this case the Chicago Cubs. Because you know the Cubs don't have a problem with passing out stupid money for players, especially pitchers.
Can we forget the Wee Bears' decision to hand former Cardinals hurler Edwin Jackson $52 million over four years? Jackson is a journeyman with an 84-104 record and a career 4.63 ERA compiled with EIGHT different teams. What does that make a legitimate ace with a 91-58 record and a 3.58 ERA worth?
It's easy for fans to give away $60 million of someone else's money. And there's the added pressure that the MLB Players Association doesn't like it when the top player on the market lowers the salary scale for everyone by taking a discount. But, on the other hand, Scherzer knows the score between the Redbirds and the Cubs.
Would the extra money make up the difference between potentially raising a World Series banner in his home town. Would he be able to deal with it if he became the next player to be The Key Guy to leading the Cubs to their first championship in a century only to end up stuck with them for six or seven more seasons of futility?
Boras shrugged off multiple reports that his client didn't draw any inquiries during the general managers meetings in Phoenix. He said the top players never get any interest at that point of the off-season.
That may be true for his clients, since no one wants to deal with mystery bidders and Boras' other mind games. But I get the sense that things could move quicker than usual this winter with power bats in high demand and a handful of impact pitchers on the market.
While I doubt any general manager likes to deal with Boras, the Cardinals seem to have more success in that regard than most. They've signed several of his clients over recent years including the guy who got the biggest deal St. Louis has passed out so far, Matt Holliday's $140-million pact.
If the Cardinals aren't willing to pull the trigger on a relative bargain for Scherzer and if the pitcher doesn't make St. Louis so much of a priority that he passes on larger deals elsewhere, I hope he opts for loyalty and remains with the Tigers to keep him out of the National League Central.
The chances are extremely slim Scherzer ends up in St. Louis. But I'm not willing to concede that they're dead just yet.