Could Scherzer go to hometown Cardinals AND get his market value?
I don’t know if free-agent ace Max Scherzer will sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. But the rationale for him to do so — on both sides — is becoming clearer by the day.
First, here’s what multiple sources have told me about the courtship of Scherzer by his hometown team:
. . . Scherzer has made it known to Cardinals management that he’s interested in pitching for them.
. . . The Cardinals have made it known to Scherzer that they are interested in him, too.
. . . Cardinals officials are concerned about the state of their rotation and want to acquire a top-of-the-rotation starter, as Ken Rosenthal and I reported recently.
. . . Scherzer entered the offseason with the goal of a $200 million contract, likely over seven years.
. . . The Cardinals are reluctant to sign a pitcher to a contract for more than five guaranteed years. (The team-record pitching contract is $97.5 million over five years for Adam Wainwright.)
. . . Because of growing team revenues, the Cardinals would be comfortable going higher on a deal’s average annual value (AAV) if it means keeping the term to five years. (Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently that he expects “significant increases” to the team’s payroll over the next several years.)
Those are the facts. Now here are some thoughts on how the drama could unfold in the coming days between the Cardinals and Scherzer’s agent, the powerful Scott Boras.
. . . Scherzer is almost certain to receive substantially more than $100 million to play baseball, and no reasonable person could refer to any sum of that magnitude as a “disappointment.” But it would appear odd if Scherzer signs for less than $144 million (the amount over six years he turned down from the Tigers last spring) or even $155 million (the amount over six years Jon Lester received from the Cubs).
. . . For the same reasons, a contract of fewer than six years would need to have an exceptional AAV — or other powerful intrinsic value — in order for Scherzer to sign it.
. . . Let’s say the Cardinals offer Scherzer a $156 million contract over five years. That would mean an AAV of $31.2 million — the highest for a pitcher in baseball history, surpassing the mark Clayton Kershaw set last year. That would be the largest guarantee of any free agent this offseason and the biggest contract in Cardinals history. Scherzer also could sit on the dais at his introductory press conference and tell everyone in attendance that he’s fulfilling a lifelong dream by pitching for the team he loved as a boy. At that point, no critic could suggest fairly that Boras undersold Scherzer’s market value.
. . . Cardinals veterans like Wainwright and Matt Holliday (who currently holds the largest contract in franchise history) almost certainly would look at Scherzer as someone worthy of the investment. He has won the Cy Young Award, been one of the game’s elite pitchers for several years, and understands the cultural importance of baseball in St. Louis.
. . . DeWitt was named chairman of MLB’s powerful executive council a couple days ago, which means his current influence within the sport may be second only to incoming commissioner Rob Manfred. As such, he is able to operate his club with greater freedom than virtually any other owner in the major leagues. If that means spending huge dollars on a free agent, who within the game could discourage him from doing so?
It’s important to note that, at this point, I don’t know if the Cardinals have made Scherzer an offer. No source has told me that. But I won’t be surprised if St. Louis is where he ends up.