The best player on this year's free agent market is Max Scherzer from the Detroit Tigers. Scherzer was offered a qualifying offer earlier today, but should still have a very strong market considering his accolades and performance on the field.
The 30-year-old Scherzer will be hitting free agency for the first time in his career, as he just wrapped up the arbitration process this past offseason, netting a one-year, $15.53 million deal from Detroit. Considering that the qualifying offer would actually be a decrease in pay for Scherzer, there is an extremely low chance he takes it. Where could he go and what contract could he get?
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Scherzer could net a seven-year, $175 million contract from his new team. Scherzer declined an extension from the Tigers that was worth $144 million over six years back prior to this season. He posted another very good season this year and should expect to make more than $144 million.
The St. Louis native Scherzer was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, out of the University of Missouri Columbia (Columbia, MO). He came up to the big leagues with Arizona for a brief period, but was traded in the three-team trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, and Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks.
Since, Scherzer has improved every year. He completely broke out in 2013, going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 214 1/3 innings pitched, which netted him the 2013 Cy Young award.
This past year, Scherzer went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts coming off his Cy Young season. He struck out 252 hitters and walked just 63 over his 220 1/3 innings of work. Scherzer may have resulted from some poor defense, as his 2.85 FIP suggests that his ERA was 0.30 inflated.
It will be hard to pinpoint an exact location for Scherzer now, but I have a strong feeling he ends up in Boston to pitch for the Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs are in for one, or more, top tier starting pitchers, but I cannot see Theo Epstein giving up a second round pick to go get him. The Yankees could be in on him, but a recent report said they weren't going after top starting pitching.
The Red Sox want to make another run at the AL East title in 2015. They acquired Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig at the trade deadline from the Athletics and Cardinals, respectively, to bolster their lineup and outfield. They still have a strong lineup that has some young talent, but did post a .684 OPS last year, which ranked 22nd in the majors. The Red Sox might need to really retool in order to contend once again.
Other suitors for Scherzer are pretty obvious, the Yankees and Cubs. I'm not fully convinced that the Yankees will stay out of the top bidding this season, and the Cubs are going to go after some top pitching. But one, other potential suitor, the St. Louis Cardinals, might be a dark horse for Scherzer.
Scherzer discussed the idea of pitching in St. Louis in March.
"It would be too cool," Scherzer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel. "I grew up there. When you’re a little kid, you picture yourself putting on the (Cardinals) uniform."
No free agent starting pitcher has made over $150 million since CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season. We'll see how the market plays out for Scherzer, but I have the Red Sox signing him to a six-year, $150 million contract, similar to the deal Zack Greinke got from the Dodgers prior to the 2013 season. No matter how you slice it, Scherzer will get paid.