I'm not sure anyone is surprised to learn that Max Scherzer is getting the heck out of Dodge (or the city that produced Dodge, anyway.) He's joining former Tiger Doug Fister in the starting rotation of the Washington Nationals this spring. And you want the truth? I'm not devastated that he's leaving. I'm still fuming that they dealt Fister for a bag of peanuts.
Holding the line on his earlier offer to Max was absolutely the correct stance for Dave Dombrowski to take. The Nationals are spending a boatload to get him and if reports are even remotely in the ballpark, they may still be paying Scherzer years after he retires. I've read it's a seven year deal somewhere between $180M and $210M with the possibility that some income will be deferred for seven more years.
If that's true, Max will be on the Nationals' gravy train until nearly 2028. When he's 44. That's a huge financial risk for a team to take on a pitcher who rarely makes it past the 6th or 7th inning even when he's pitching a gem and whose best years may soon be behind him. That contract makes him pretty untradeable, too, so they better like what they get. Max has been great and I'm thankful for the seasons we've called him a Tiger. I also don't begrudge him this chance at all. Kudos to Max, right? Practically speaking, though, the Tigers just don't need another bloated salary extended into years in which a pitcher's contribution can reasonably be expected to decline. Rapidly. They're already locked into Justin Verlander for what will be the remainder of his productive years (and then some.) With a lot of other cash tied up in the big bats, like Miggy and VMart, and a few key position players, there isn't much salary room for Dombrowski to work with while remaining under the luxury tax threshold.
It is concerning to me that the best starting lineup in baseball has been tinkered with and sold away without getting much in return. We missed Fister last year. We might miss Porcello this year. Worst of all, I still have zero faith in the ability of the bullpen to save games when the starters stumble or the bats go cold. Maybe it's not time to worry, yet. Verlander did pick it up a bit and David Price, last year's trade prize, should be great again. If Anibal Sanchez stays healthy, that gives us three starters any team would envy. And two that I couldn't name right now for the life of me. With the addition of Cespedes' bat to the line-up and the re-signing of J.D. Martinez, maybe there will be a better cushion of runs to eliminate the bullpen from mattering. It's a wish more than a belief at this point.
I so want to trust Dave Dombrowski. I want to believe he'll surprise us with another great starter or a serious closer when we least expect it. I promised myself after he unloaded Prince Fielder, the world's biggest albatross, that I would never pass judgment on his mad genius again. It's been hard to keep my word, though. When I think of this team, I feel like they're the Yankees of the Great Lakes. Big names. Huge payroll. Long term commitments. And what I expect will happen soon -- performance that won't be worth the expenditure. In trying so hard to win that World Series for Mr. Ilitch, they've become bloated, old, and have left their farm system in a state of drought.
Time will tell how it goes this year. There's not much the Tigers can do this summer to bring me down, anyway. Baseball is just an enjoyable time filler until...
Harbaugh. September. Right?