Jun 28, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) walks back to the dugout at the end of the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Max Scherzer Now

The canniest general managing in the game of baseball isn’t by the book, it’s mastering the art of buying high, selling low and investing in resources that other GMs undervalue.

I wrote a bit earlier about the big choices that Dave Dombrowski (and Mike Ilitch) will have to make next offseason in their attempt to keep the Tigers competitive despite salary inflation. They’ll need to move salary, get their hands on a cheap and productive middle infielder and put some more good arms in the Toledo rotation (or the Detroit bullpen) IF they want to compete in 2014 and beyond while keeping payroll from drifting much above $150 million.

It’s possible that the best time to make such a move (though I am by no means implying that the Tigers intend to do anything of the sort) might be now. There are only a handful of teams that have what the Tigers need, could spare what the Tigers need, and need what the Tigers have to spare. What the Tigers have to spare is – largely – limited to any extra starting pitcher of high quality. Plenty of teams do have good shortstops in the high minors, but few would consider parting with them. The team that fits both is the Boston Red Sox, for now.

The Red Sox have the best record in the American League at the moment, but in an extremely competitive AL East (where the worst team is .500) they’re not likely to feel that they have enough. Ace Clay Buchholz is on the DL and rumors have it that the Red Sox are scouting starters, including Ricky Nolasco and probably Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs. If Garza goes to the Sawx, and the Cubs are reportedly interested in making their trades early this year, the Red Sox likely won’t need a Tigers starter or have anything left with which to acquire one.

And, so, I propose a silly, ridiculous trade: pretend to wave the white flag and send Max Scherzer to Boston – soon.

In return? Insist on SS Xander Bogaerts and righties Matt Barnes (the pick the Tigers coughed up to get Victor Martinez) and Allen Webster. Three top-100 prospects is a mighty big haul, but then Max Scherzer IS 12-0 and a front runner for the Cy Young award. And, the Sox can get by without these three guys – in addition to Stephen Drew and Wil Middlebrooks they have an excellent 3B prospect in Garin Cecchini tearing up AA and a 23-year-old defensive wizard at short in Jose Iglesias. Bogaerts is an elite prospect – but they don’t need him. With the addition of Scherzer, and their whole rotation under contract for 2014, they wouldn’t figure to be counting on calling up Barnes or Webster any time soon. If the Tigers are intending to extend Max Scherzer and are quietly planning to go into 2014 with a payroll between $160 and $170 million then this idea is nonsensical. If they don’t figure they can afford to sign him to that extension and are planning to move one of their starters in November – then it might, because he’s not likely to fetch a price nearly this high in the offseason – even if he pitches just as well in the season’s second half. For Boston specifically, the team may not need a pitcher in November and these prospects may already be elsewhere.

The question would come down to the relative value of wins this year versus wins over the next 5 years. In the thick of the playoff chase, the Tigers are obviously not going to be willing to forgo 2013 wins lightly. Nonetheless, it is going to become exceedingly difficult to field a 90 win team over the next 5 years without relatively radical moves lest the Tigers face a fate like the Phillies of the past couple of seasons. I’m aware that this sort of thing simply isn’t done. But does that necessarily mean that it never should be?

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  • gstoye44

    That’s a really great idea, but it feels like we have no idea what Illitch’s gameplan will be after this season. If there’s no World Series this year his past behavior makes it seem like he’d want to keep the gang together and hold on to Scherzer, but if he wants to shed salary this is arguably one of the better moves to make.

  • jumpsuitjohnny

    As a Tiger fan, I’d do that trade in a heartbeat.

  • Michael Nance

    Testing the trade market on ANY of the SP, Prince Fielder, Tori Hunter and Austin Jackson would be a bold move but not a bad one. Remember what we got in return for Curtis Granderson. What they would need to receive in return would be something that would make them more flexable financially and make them more athletic. This would seem to make Jackson a keeper but you would need to listen to offers and what is out there. Given the right package Hunter could be moved to Center and we could fill in by bringing up Nick C. Trading a SP for another SP who has more cost controlled years but would currently be a 4th or 5th starter with potential to move up (much like Fister and Scherzer were when we got them) a middle infielder who could backup this fall and take a starting position in 2014 and a prospect would be a legit haul. I would prefer to do this trade to the NL so we wouldn’t have to face Scherzer in the playoffs (that could be media fodder for years to come if we lost to one of our own). But addition by subtraction may actually help the makup of this team.

    • chrisHannum

      It’s hard to imagine that Torii Hunter or Prince Fielder would be attractive on the trade market. They aren’t bad players right now, but they’re both probably owed a lot more than they will earn over the life of their contracts.

  • Michael Nance

    If I recall correctly our cable contract is up in 2016 and we will get a windfall of cash at that point. If Mike can keep the team solvent till then that money should give them 30-40 million to work with.

    • chrisHannum

      My impression was that they signed a 10 year deal in ’08

      • FunkyTime

        This seems to imply that the Tigers have an opt out clause after the 2015 season:

        “Keeping local ratings high for the next three years will likely net Detroit a huge new, long-term contract that will put them among the top teams in terms of local media revenue,” said Gary Gillette, co-editor of the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia and president of the local chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research.

        He sees a pattern in what some fans worry is unsustainable spending by the Tigers.

        “The Tigers know what they’re doing; they’re investing in their future and in their next TV contract while going all-out to win the World Series,” Gillette said.

  • Steve

    As a Red Sox fan, I have to say that your proposed trade is a bit one-sided. Insisting on a super-prospect like Bogaerts is one thing. But adding in two highly-regarded pitching prospects makes the price a bit steep. The Red Sox clearly felt that Webster was worth a lot, as they made sure he was included in the trade with the Dodgers last year. Both of those pitching prospects have very high potential to become great in the Majors.

    As for the Sox being a bit heavy on the left side of the infield, that’s not necessarily something that they want to lose. The past several years have shown Boston the importance of having a lot of depth, to help with underperformance (Youk last year, Middlebrooks this year) and injuries (Middlebrooks last year, Drew a good portion of this year).

    I’ve noticed that a lot of these trade posts seem to be very skewed towards one team. I completely understand the desire to get the best players on your team, but both teams need to actually get something that they think will help them win.

    That being said, I love the idea of Sherzer coming to Boston, assuming that he continues to dominate when he comes to the AL East and has to deal with the Yankees and new and improved Orioles more. I just hope it isn’t at the expense of the entire Red Sox farm system, which has just gotten re-stocked.

    • chrisHannum

      As I am sure you are aware, fans of every team (including me) tend to have a slightly biased view of the market value of their teams players and prospects.

  • Joel Wagler


  • FunkyTime

    You also said last year that there was no way the Tigers could afford to keep Verlander. :-P

    I said this in the last article, but the Tigers are getting $110 mil per season from the league and their TV deal alone. That’s before a single ticket is sold. And that number is going to go up greatly once their current deal with Fox Sports expires in a couple years, as they’re getting the highest local ratings of any team in the league right now.

    They are not and will not be in financial trouble going forward, unless they stop being competitive, hurting their ticket sales and TV ratings. Therefore it’s highly unlikely they’ll do any of this. The more ratings they get now, the bigger that next contract will be, and the more they can spend later.

    Also, IF the Tigers are able to win a World Series in the next couple years, that’d do wonders for that coming contract, obviously. And I think this trade — even if it would be greatly beneficial for the future — would very much hurt the Tigers chances of winning a World Series this year or next. And I think that’s more important to them than anything else. Both for financial reasons, and baseball ones.