A postscript on Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals:
Throughout the offseason, many baseball observers expected Scherzer to return to the Detroit Tigers because of owner Mike Ilitch’s history of signing Scott Boras clients — particularly late in the offseason.
The notable January and February news conferences: Ivan Rodriguez (2004), Magglio Ordonez (2005), Johnny Damon (2010) and Prince Fielder (2012).
But Scherzer never came close to joining that list. Here is a major reason: None of the aforementioned players turned down a $144 million contract offer from Ilitch the previous spring, as Scherzer did in March 2014.
In his decades as owner of the Tigers and Red Wings, Ilitch rarely has failed to retain free agents he truly wanted to keep. Because of his vast wealth, loyalty to players and desire to win, Ilitch often spends more on stars than a team executive would suggest is reasonable.
And it’s very likely that Scherzer’s $144 million tender was the largest final offer rejected by an Ilitch employee in more than 50 combined seasons of Tigers and Red Wings ownership.
After Scherzer said no to that sum, sources say Ilitch never became fully re-engaged in trying to retain him — financially and perhaps emotionally, as well. Meanwhile, Scherzer’s bold gamble proved prescient: His guarantee from the Nationals is nearly 46 percent higher than what the Tigers were willing to pay 10 months ago. It’s also the largest contract in history for a right-handed pitcher, surpassing that of his now-former teammate, Justin Verlander.
In the end, Ilitch should be respected for his stance. Similarly, Scherzer ought to be admired for performing so brilliantly with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake — and congratulated on the deal of a lifetime.
As for Boras and the Tigers? Surely, this isn’t goodbye. When I asked Boras Monday if there was anything he wished to say about Ilitch, he responded this way: "One of the game’s best owners who is always available to improve his team."