There is an interesting piece on Bleacher Report that suggests free agent starting pitcher Max Scherzer may have over-played his hand when he turned down a $144-million contract offer from the Detroit Tigers last season.
The report speculates that many of the teams that may have been able to afford Scherzer's price tag have already spent their free agent money. At the same time, a glut of starting pitchers on the free agent and trade markets has made teams less desperate to over-pay for hurlers.
That's the sort of market situation that could potentially put the St. Louis Cardinals in position to get Scherzer to sign with them for a home town discount.
Unfortunately, while the Bleacher Report piece makes several good points, I don't think that appraisal of market circumstances is entirely accurate.
While it's true that the Toronto Blue Jays have doled out relatively large money to sign Russell Martin, the Boston Red Sox have written big checks to land Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval and Scherzer's team the Detroit Tigers passed out a four-year contract for Victor Martinez, there is no shortage of big money suitors.
The Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants have all reportedly made contract offers to fellow high-end free agent hurler Jon Lester. As far as I can tell, baseball rules prevent all three of those clubs from signing the same player, which means two high rollers -- at least -- will be left to duke it out for Scherzer to fill their desire for a top starter. And that's all it takes.
But... the free spending Los Angeles Dodgers are rumored to have jumped in on the Lester bidding and there is still speculation among National League front office types that the Redbirds are interested, according to multiple reports.
Meanwhile, the Tigers may be in a tight financial spot at the moment. But they could decide to keep the known quantity that is Scherzer, if he decided to re-sign there, and either trade high-priced pitcher David Price to make financial room or let Price walk as a free agent at the end of the 2015 season.
Price sputtered after arriving in Detroit at the trade deadline. So, even if the Tigers aren't spooked by his results, Price could very well decide Motown isn't a fit for him and leave of his own accord.
If Lester follows through on his well-publicized intentions to return to the Red Sox, I believe it will intensify the bidding for Scherzer from the other teams interested in bringing in an ace. And anytime a player can pit to big market rivas against each other -- in this case the Dodgers and Giants -- the cash register is going to ring. Plus, if the Cubs, who have tried to appease their long suffering fans by announcing their intention to spend their way to competitiveness this off-season, don't get Lester, they're going to be desperate to get their last chance at an ace.
The best chance for the Cardinals to land Scherzer is if either the Cubs or the Dodgers land Lester. Then one of the teams with the means and the motivation to spend stupid money will be out of the bidding war. But, even then, the competition promises to be fierce.
It's not the number of pitchers available that will determine Scherzer's market. It's the quality. Only Lester is comparable to the Cy Young Award potential that the winner of the Scherzer derby will acquire.