Oct 28, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) throws against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of game four of the 2012 World Series at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Josh Slagter had an article up on MLive today about Max Scherzer and his future with the Detroit Tigers. Slagter figures the Tigers might look to trade him following the season while he’s heading into his final arbitration year before they have to pony up serious cash for a longer term extension.
"If Sanchez signed an $80 million deal as a .500 pitcher who has yet to fully prove himself in the American League, then Scherzer may be seeking $20 million per as an established power pitcher and the guy who led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings in 2012 (11.078)."
The idea of trading Scherzer isn’t a bad one – it’s an idea that was previously defended on these very electronic pages – but I really want to focus on the number and comparison that was thrown out. Anibal Sanchez’s five-year, $80 million dollar deal was met with a bit of consternation from the Tigers fan base. It wasn’t a gross overpay – though some do call it an overpay – but neither was the $16 million average annual value figure a bargain. It was pretty much a market value rate.
Scherzer is still two seasons away from free agency, but fans (and the team, probably) are already thinking about a long-term extension, and the ubiquitous public opinion seems to be that he’d be commanding something in the $20+ million range* (as the quoted piece shows).
*I’m assuming these figures are in today’s dollars not 2015 dollars.
Scherzer very well could turn into that $20 million per year player, but I’m not sure he’s there right now, and the recent Anibal Sanchez contract shows us exactly why. Here’s a three-year WAR comparison between the two players:
They’ve produced similarly good lines over the last three seasons, but they’ve done it in different ways. Scherzer has the higher high but has been more inconsistent, and Sanchez has had more of an even-keeled performance. In fact, if we look at either the three-year total or the quick Marcel-like 2013 projection, we could even come to expect Sanchez to be the better pitcher in the upcoming season.
Scherzer’s line suggests a higher ceiling, but I don’t think it’s right to simply assume he realizes his full potential. Max hasn’t shown that he could hold his mechanics together for entire season, let alone an entire contract. And Scherzer’s best season hasn’t even been that much better than Anibal’s best season.
Sanchez’s history with the disabled list may mean he’s a greater injury risk, but scout-types aren’t in love with Scherzer’s mechanics and have been predicting injury for years. Age is hardly a factor either as the two players were only born five months apart.
If Scherzer were to repeat his 2012 peripherals in 2013 and 2014 then teams would be willing to buy out four or five free agent years at $20 million per season (inflation notwithstanding), but he’s not there yet. If the Tigers and Scherzer were to announce a five-year deal today, it would probably look an awful lot like the one Anibal just signed (except his 2014 would-be final arbitration year would come in at a discount). Perhaps he’d get a few more million sprinkled in there, but it wouldn’t be $4 million more per season. Sanchez and Scherzer have been similarly valuable pitchers in their recent careers, and any long-term extension would reflect that point.