New Years Day has come and gone and James Shields and Max Scherzer are both waiting for a call from their agents to tell them if they will be in Arizona or Florida when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. Shields is coming off his second World Series appearance and Scherzer is coming off an 18 win season. Either of them would be an upgrade for any team in the league yet both are unsigned as of the first week of the new year so what gives.
Shields would have fit nicely with the Giants eating up innings and saving a bullpen that will be often used with Matt Cain easing back into the rotation, Tim Hudson coming off surgery, and Tim Lincecum at this point a dice roll if he is five and dive or gets you seven plus each game. Shields came to the big leagues in 2006 at the end of May and was shut down at the end of that season on September 22nd. That is the only year since he debuted that he didn’t throw 200 innings a season. In fact, in 2007 he was able to toss 215 innings even while being shut down by Tampa Bay on September 14th of that season. He is a great leader of a staff and can match up with anyone and try to make a game of it.
Scherzer would make an even better fit for San Francisco if they want to repeat as World Series Champions. A rotation of Bumgarner, Scherzer, Cain, Peavey and Hudson would match up nicely with the Dodgers starting five. At 30 years old he is in his prime. According to Fangraphs.com his numbers look in line with his line drive, ground ball, and fly ball percentage all in line with his life time averages. Same can be said of his velocity and his K to BB ratio. How about Boston? Would Red Sox fans love to have a rotation of Scherzer, Buchholz, Porcello, Miley and Masterson to go along with the upgrades of Sandoval and Ramirez?
Can you name any other teams that could use either of these arms? The Yankees have a rotation that has more questions than answers. What if the Mariners had someone to make a one two punch to go along with King Felix, the O’s still need a number one starter, the Cards could use a starter that goes 200 plus innings to help save their bullpen, and the Angels, could they use a horse? I can keep going and going. Outside of the Dodgers and the Nats, wouldn’t everyone like an upgrade of a innings eater like Shields or horse like Scherzer?
So what does it boil down to? Is it the money that has kept them unsigned or the length of the contract they are seeking or both? Shields was reportedly looking for a $100 million over 5 years and Scherzer had turned down a seven year $160 offer from the Tigers already. Jon Lester set the market this season with his 6 year $155 deal. So why are the other two big free agents still waiting. It has got to be the AAV and the length of the deal that Shields and Scherzer are seeking compared to what Jon Lester got from the Cubs. Lester deal is a AAV of $25 million plus and he will be 37 at the end of his deal. Shields is seeking a deal with a $20 million AAV and will be 38 at the end of that deal. If Scherzer is looking for something better than his $22 million plus AAV offer that would have made him 37 at the end of the deal he has no takers yet. It looks like for now that Shields and Scherzer’s demands are out of touch with what the market this season.
Shields seems to be between a rock and a hard place. Even with Ken Rosenthal’s report he has a $110 million offer, I am still not sure what he will sign for. If he can’t get his 5th year that takes him to age 38, do you give him more AAV and make him a $22 or $23 million dollar a year pitcher that is inching to what Lester signed for, probably not. If he has the $110 in hand, either someone will sign him through the age of 38 or someone wants to give him an AAV of $27.5 if its for four years which seems unlikely. Mike Krukow told KNBR Radio in San Francisco that the market for Shields might go down as we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting and I tend to agree with him unless we see someone blink and give him that last year or give him the AAV which eclipes Lester’s AAV.
For Scherzer if he is looking for 7 years that matches up with the 6 year deal Lester got, he might be in line, being one year younger than Lester and both deals would take then to the age of 37 when these deals expire. Where do you slot his AAV? He has already turned down an AAV of $22 million plus. Is he going to get something in line with Lester or is he looking for something closer to Clayton Kershaw‘s 7 year $215 million dollar deal with an AAV of over $30 million and ends when Kershaw is only 32 years old. The last year of that deal will pay Kershaw $35 million plus and if he is healthy he will be in his prime, kind of where Scherzer is today. So the question is do the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers or anyone else want to pay a 38 year old pitcher at the end of his contract more than $25 million a year.
A few years ago, teams were willing to sign veterans to long term deals that teams knew would have dead money at end of the deal. As these deals are now coming due and we see Alex Rodriguez getting paid like he is still an All Star, I think teams are thinking twice before signing long term deals paying so much on the back end of a player in decline at the end of his run. Baseball now sees what happens when the party is over and the credit card comes due and it aint pretty.