The Tigers are a 2014 World Series contender based a lot on their top notch starting pitching. Justin Verlander, 2011 MVP and Cy Young Award Winner. Anibal Sanchez was just recently re-signed after a trade brought him over in 2012 and led the AL in ERA this season. Doug Fister is cost controlled still and has 2 more arbitration years before becoming a Free Agent. Rick Porcello will only be 25 next season and is just going into his first Arbitration year (of 3).
And Max Scherzer, who is likely the 2013 Cy Young Award winner, a stirke out machine and top of the rotation type pitcher that you can build a staff around. But, Danny Knobler and other reporters have been writing that he is on the trading block this off season and the Tigers are likely to move him to help rebuild the farm system and bring in some young cost controlled players in positions of need.
While it wouldn’t be completely out of the question to trade Scherzer, it seems more unlikely than likely. This team is in win now mode, trying to bring a World Series to Detroit before Mike Illitch dies and trading your second best pitcher and a key component of your team’s strength seems counterproductive.
To bring in players to help the Tigers win, we need to understand where they need the most help. The infield has an opening at 2nd base, with Omar Infante being a free agent and its probably only 50/50 he returns. The outfield could use a full time Left Fielder as the platoon of Andy Dirks and Matt Tuiassosopo didn’t work out as well as hoped. And the bullpen, the Tigers have a glaring need there, especially with Joaquin Benoit being a free agent as well.
2nd base is not a position likely to return a player of value for Scherzer. Jurickson Profar could be a possibility from Texas, as a young infielder with power that is under team control but the Rangers are not very likely to part with him. The Tigers can also re-sign Infante or use Hernan Perez there, who would be a stop gap, cheap option with a plus glove. Likelihood: low.
Left Field is an interesting position, but the cheap, currently useful players that could fill an immediate need are names like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton and it would be nearly impossible to pry the first two away from their teams and Scherzer makes too much money for the Marlins to be interested. There are also free agent left fielders available for the Tigers to look at and bring in and Nick Castellanos, the Tigers top prospect, is rumored to be penciled into the spot next year anyway. Likelihood: Very Low.
The Bullpen. What a mess. This is where the most help could be done, but what team has the willingness to trade multiple reliable bullpen arms for a top of the rotation starter? Not many, because teams with strong bullpens are usually in the playoff hunt and won’t want to dismantle a bullpen for a starter. Also, as was shown at the trade deadline, reliable bullpen arms don’t cost this much anyway. Mid level prospects usually can get you Jose Veras or Jesse Crain, and this year, free agency can get you Grant Balfour, Jesse Crain, Jon Axford, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney and so on. This would be a waste of a trade. Likelihood: lowest of the lows.
So, while reporters will tell you that Scherzer is on the trading block, he very well may be. But, in order for the Tigers to make a move other than signing him for 1 year or multiple years, Dombrowski will have to be blown away with a trade that improves this team today. Not for future prospects or cost cutting measures, but only as a way to get this team closer to the World Series. And it is a difficult argument to make that removing the Cy Young winner from a team in the ALCS would ever improve a team.
During this off season of crazy talk and rumors, think before freaking out that the Tigers are trading Scherzer. If it happens, they will be better, but I’d be pretty sure that he is back in Lakeland in mid February with a new manager and some shiny new hardware.