Scherzer wants to remain with Tigers for long haul
Reigning Cy Young winner optimistic deal can be done this spring or after season
DETROIT -- Max Scherzer returned to town for the Tigers' Winter Caravan ready for the reception. His heavy overcoat, not exactly a daily necessity at his offseason home in Arizona, was at his side for Michigan's latest round of frigid weather. He didn't need a forecast to know the questions that would be greeting him, too.
He wasn't hiding his reaction, both to the weather and his potential free agency. He has a chance to cash in on free agency next winter, but he hopes to remain a Tiger, frigid Michigan weather and all.
Moreover, and maybe somewhat surprisingly, he sounded optimistic that he and the Tigers can make it happen, whether in Spring Training or next offseason.
"Honestly, this is the place I want to be," Scherzer said Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park. "I'm comfortable here. I love being part of the Tigers. So hopefully we can get something done before Spring Training, otherwise I'm confident after the season we can completely resolve this."
Those rank as the most upbeat quotes from either side on the chances at a contract extension. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has maintained that they want to keep Scherzer but has left it at that, and he said as much Thursday.
"We're very hopeful to keep Max as part of the organization for a long time," Dombrowski said. "We've expressed that. He'd like to stay with us. We'll see what ends up happening."
Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, has acknowledged Scherzer's interest to stay in Detroit but has otherwise kept quiet, perhaps uncharacteristically so.
The two sides have had talks, Scherzer said, but nothing major. Their primary goal was to avoid arbitration for this season, which they accomplished last week with a one-year, $15.525 million contract.
Now, Scherzer said, they can focus on a deal beyond that.
"I don't have anything pressing," Scherzer said. "Nothing's pending or anything, but I'm sure conversations will pick up, and that's something the front office and Scott will discuss at great length."
They'll discuss it in the few weeks leading up to Spring Training, and maybe as camp unfolds. Once the season begins, however, Scherzer doesn't want to talk about a new deal, either with the Tigers or the media.
"Absolutely not," Scherzer said. "That would be too much of a distraction to be sitting here thinking about that. If it doesn't get done soon, then I'm more than comfortable playing 2014 on a one-year deal."
Another strong season in 2014 could propel Scherzer into position as the top free agent in next winter's market. He doesn't need reminding of the ramifications. The former business economics student at the University of Missouri has served as the Tigers' union representative, so he knows what each new standard-setting contract means for players and teams alike.
When asked his reaction to Clayton Kershaw's record-setting seven-year $215 million contract, Scherzer laughed. But he also acknowledged the impact for others, including him.
"He's on such a different planet, how good he is," Scherzer said. "He's in a different realm. I think that was a good thing for all of Major League Baseball."
He also wasn't going to deny the enticement of free agency, being able to choose where to play and let the market play out.
"That's every player's strategy. I mean, every player wants to be a free agent," Scherzer said. "But at the same time, you realize we've got a good thing here in Detroit. We've got a great team, great teammates, so much talent and a chance to win it all. So for me, this is a place where I want to be.
"Going forward, I'm hopeful we can come to some terms on what we can do in the future. But if it doesn't happen in the near term, I'm sure we can get this done in the offseason."
If it's the latter, he knows he'll face the questions about it, even if he doesn't answer them. Neither he nor the Tigers, however, expect it would be an issue.
"I don't think it'll be a distraction if it's not done [before the season]," Dombrowski said. "I've had other players play in the last year of their contract. … But I also agree that we have not talked contract extensions with our players during the season. [Only in] very rare circumstances, and it would be more when the club was not a postseason contender, because it can be a distraction for a player.
"We'll see what happens between now and Opening Day, and if not, we'll see what happens after the season. But we'd like to keep Max in the organization for a long time."
Catcher Alex Avila believes Scherzer's personality should allow him to stay focused.
"I don't think it'll be a distraction for Max," he said. "I mean, it just depends on the guy. I don't see that in him. Some guys like to have that resolved before. Some guys could care less. I don't think it'll be that big of a distraction."
Whether a deal is reached or not, Scherzer will face the pressure of trying to build on a breakout year that earned him the AL Cy Young Award and propelled him to this status in the first place.
Scherzer went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA last year, the best record from a Major League starter since Roger Clemens a decade ago. With 152 hits and 56 walks allowed over 214 1/3 innings, he allowed fewer baserunners than innings pitched, earning him the best WHIP ratio in the league.
He had success in stretches in the past, notably the second half of 2010 and '12, but last year was the first time he put it all together for a full year.
"For me, I'm always trying to get better," he said. "I'm never going to sit here and feel like I'm complete. I'm always going to be working to get better. That's my mentality going into 2014."