Max Scherzer Deal – The Art of the Steal?


April 30, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) in the dugout before the game against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With Max Scherzersporting a 6-0 record, and fresh off sitting down 22 Tribesmen in succession, it is a good time to look back and remember just how Mad Max made his way to Motown.

On December 8, 2009, Dave Dombrowski shipped Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees, and sent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees returned Austin Jackson and Phil Coke, while the D-Backs replied with Scherzer and left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth. To complete the three-way deal, Yankee starter Ian Kennedy headed west to Arizona.

This is an interesting trade to evaluate 3+ seasons hence, as each team has received quality production at some point from all of the players involved. Let’s look at highlights/lowlights for each player:

  • Ian Kennedy – Went 21-4 in 2011, finishing 4th in the Cy Young  Award voting and leading Kirk Gibson‘s squad to the NL West championship. That season looks like an outlier, however; his ERA with the D-Backs hovers around 4.00; of his career 9.7 WAR, 4.8 were accumulated in 2011.
  • Edwin Jackson – Posted his best statistical season for Detroit in 2009 and made the AL All-Star team; his career highlight came for the D-Backs in 2010, pitching a no-hitter against one of his former teams, the Rays, firing 149 pitches in the process. Only 29 years old, he has toiled for the White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals and now the Cubs since leaving Arizona after 2010.
  • Curtis Granderson – Found the short porch at the new Yankee Stadium to his liking – back-to-back 40+ HR seasons in 2011 and 2012, while leading the league in runs and RBI’s in 2011. Batting average has dropped 25 points since leaving spacious Comerica Park, from .272 to .247, while his slugging pct. has only increased 21 points.
  • Daniel Schlereth – Showed some promise as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen in 2010, but could not throw enough strikes to stay on the big-league roster. Currently hurling for the Norfolk Tides of the International League with typically mixed results – a 2-0 record and 0.93 ERA, but 8 walks in 9 innings vs. only 6 K’s.
  • Austin Jackson  – Runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 2010, has combined remarkable defensive skills with marked improvement at the plate. Targeted as a candidate for regression based on his BAbip of .367, his OPS+ of 129 exceeded Granderson’s 117 in 2012.
  • Phil Coke – Turned in his best performance during the 2012 postseason, saving two games in the LCS vs. New York. After an abbreviated stint as a starter in 2011, has settled into bullpen role, but struggles against right-handed batters.
  • Max Scherzer – Finished 2nd to Justin Verlander in the AL with 231 K’s last season, and averages over a strikeout per inning over his 6-year career. The 28-year old righty is off to a 6-0 start this year with a stellar WHIP of 0.91.

It is fair to say that all three teams feel pretty good about what they garnered in the swap.  Each player has contributed to a division-winning squad, and with the exception of Schlereth, they all continue to perform well at the major-league level.

By sheer volume, we can declare Detroit the winner in this deal, as 4 years after they have three useful ballplayers still on the club. Considering the age and statistical ascension of both AJax and Max, the outlook is even rosier. Anything Coke provides is gravy.