The Detroit Tigers have had an uncharacteristically quiet offseason, and their next major move could be signing Max Scherzer to a contract extension rather than adding an impact player from outside the organization, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com.
For the last few years, Detroit has focused on adding players in addition to retaining its stars. Last winter, the Tigers shelled out big money on three contracts -- a free agent deal for outfielder Torii Hunter, a five-year contract to re-sign free agent Anibal Sanchez, and a monster extension for ace starter Justin Verlander.
The year before that, they inked Prince Fielder to a nine-year mega-deal, and prior to 2011 they picked up Victor Martinez while paying to keep Jhonny Peralta, who had been acquired in a deadline deal.
This year, though, there have been more departures than arrivals. The Tigers traded Fielder in a blockbuster, cost-cutting deal, and the acquisition of second baseman Ian Kinsler in that deal allowed the team to let Omar Infante walk via free agency. They also dealt Doug Fister to Washington and watched Jhonny Peralta sign with St. Louis, while saying goodbye to established bench players Brayan Pena and Ramon Santiago. The only addition that they've made with all of the money that they've saved are closer Joe Nathan, who agreed to a two-year pact in December; reliever Joba Chamberlain, who came cheap on a $2.5 million deal; and fourth outfielder Rajai Davis.
The fact that the contending Tigers have decreased their payroll rather than increased it suggests that they are saving money for something, but Beck reports that Detroit is probably done making major moves outside of the organization -- any external transactions the rest of the way will likely be minor tweaks. That opens up speculation that an extension for Scherzer is next on the docket.
Scherzer won the AL Cy Young award in 2013 after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 214⅓ innings. The 29-year-old right-hander is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and is estimated to make $13.6 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors. One likely scenario could involve the Tigers settling quickly on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration, and then using that deal as a basis for a longer extension; this strategy would give the two sides more time to negotiate without rushing things. Beck reports that avoiding arbitration is indeed general manager Dave Dombrowski's first priority.