Philadelphia Phillies potential offseason target: Max Scherzer
By Mike Lacy
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Position: Starting pitcher
2014 team: Detroit Tigers
Key 2014 stats: 18-5 W-L/3.15 ERA/252 K/63 BB/6.0 WAR
Despite sharing a rotation with the more heralded Justin Verlander, Scherzer emerged as the ace of the Tigers’ staff the past couple of years. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2013, and while he likely won’t duplicate that feat in 2014, he still had an excellent season.
Why he might be a good fit
A pitcher of Scherzer’s caliber is a good fit in just about anyone’s rotation. Pairing him with Cole Hamels would give the Phillies an excellent one-two punch at the top of their rotation. If Cliff Lee comes back healthy, suddenly, the Phillies would have the makings of a strong rotation.
In addition, there’s a thought that despite their rebuilding status, if the Phillies want to sign a big-name free agent, now is the time to do so. Due to their top ten draft position, signing Scherzer would only require giving up a second round pick as opposed to the first rounder than non-top ten teams must surrender.
Why he might not be a good fit
This seems like a case of the wrong player at the wrong time. The Phillies are admittedly in a rebuilding mode, so it seems unlikely that Scherzer would want to come to Philadelphia even if the team was inclined to meet his monetary demands. (Most predictions have him receiving a seven-year deal worth more than $170 million)
Sep 25, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) pitches against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Scherzer will be 30 years old during the 2015 season. If the team is still a few years away from contention, why would they want to spend big money on a pitcher who will likely be in decline by the time they’re good again? That would just result in the Phillies paying ace-level money to a pitcher who no longer delivers ace-level performance.
While it’s nice to envision Hamels, Lee, and Scherzer forming a new super-rotation, it simply isn’t going to happen. Scherzer likely would prefer to pitch for a contender, and even with Scherzer, the Phillies don’t appear to be a contender in 2015. (Although throwing enough money at a player can often make him change his mind.)
But I can’t imagine the Phillies breaking the bank for him. They’ve spent the past couple of years avoiding signing free agents to long-term deals, and I can’t see them changing that approach now.
There will be other Scherzer-quality pitchers available in a few years. It makes more sense to save their money until then.