DETROIT — Max Scherzer was ready for all the questions — and he doesn’t seem to mind that his contract status is such a big topic as spring training approaches.
“I figured you guys wanted to talk about it, but this is the perfect time, during the offseason, when we’re not playing baseball,” Scherzer said.
Scherzer was at Comerica Park on Thursday for the start of the Detroit Tigers’ winter caravan. He recently agreed to a one-year, $15,525,000 deal with the Tigers, avoiding arbitration but leaving plenty of questions still unanswered about his future.
Scherzer, last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, can become a free agent after this season. He says he has no problem fielding questions about his future now, before spring training starts. By the time opening day rolls around, though, he’ll be focused on pitching.
So there’s a sense the clock is ticking if the Tigers want to lock up their star right-hander before he reaches free agency. Detroit signed ace Justin Verlander to a $180 million, seven-year deal shortly before last season, avoiding the prospect of Verlander testing the open market. But Verlander was two seasons away from free agency. Scherzer has only one more to go.
“Every player wants to be a free agent,” Scherzer said. “At the same time, you realize we’ve got a good thing here in Detroit.”
The Tigers have won three straight AL Central titles, and Scherzer went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA last season, winning the Cy Young two years after Verlander did.
General manager Dave Dombrowski didn’t offer many specifics about the status of negotiations with Scherzer, but he left no doubt about how the organization feels about the 29-year-old pitcher.
“I would not characterize our discussion as strong, weak, anything other than we are hopeful that we’d like to have him in the organization for an extended time,” Dombrowski said. “I know he has expressed a desire that he’d like to stay here. Hopefully that leads to a position where something can happen.”
A couple recent deals have given Scherzer a sense of the type of contract that could await him. Clayton Kershaw, a two-time Cy Young winner who is four years younger than Scherzer, reached a $215 million, seven-year agreement to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka came to terms with the New York Yankees for $155 million over seven years.
“Owners are making more money, and therefore players are going to make more money,” Scherzer said. “You have new TV money coming in. That’s good for everybody involved. It’s win-win for the owners and for the players.”
Scherzer says his arm feels good, and that he’ll keep working to improve. He said his curveball can still progress, for example.
“There’s always things you can tinker with in spring training. It’s a great time to practice and try new things,” he said.
The question is whether this might be his final season in Detroit, but that’s not a prospect Scherzer is too worked up about right now.
“I love it here in Detroit. This is a great team, we’ve got so much talent, we’ve been together for so long, and I’m comfortable,” Scherzer said. “Obviously this is a place I want to play, and that’s why I said hopefully we can get something done before spring training.”