The time to deal players heading into free agency is usually two years before said player reaches free agency, to maximize the return for that player. But some teams cannot trade away star players because they are favorites to make the playoffs or are gearing for a playoff run. The Rays traded away James Shields last offseason, two years before he reaches free agency and received top prospect Wil Myers in return. Seeing the return on Shields, many teams will monitor the trade market for their young pitching this offseason, including the Tigers, who are attempting to make it to the World Series for the second year in a row.
But, who would have thought they might make Cy Young award favorite Max Scherzer available this offseason?
So why would the Tigers trade him?
Because Scherzer is one year away from free agency and is a Scott Boras client who is very unlikely to sign a long-term deal this close to being able to test the market. The Tigers may make an attempt to sign him after this season, but they realize that it's unlikely he would accept a deal now.
He goes on to say the Scherzer's salary is likely to jump into the $20 million per year range this offseason, and the Tigers already have three players making $20 million or more in Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander.
Do you think the Tigers are regretting signing Fielder to such a large contract after seeing what Scherzer did this season? I imagine they do.
The Rangers, Cardinals, Braves and Pirates have the most major league ready prospects, or young talent, to offer the Tigers in return for Scherzer. But, I wonder if the Pirates would get aggressive this offseason in an attempt to build on their first playoff appearance in 20 years.
Scherzer to Pirates
The Pirates have one of the better farm systems in the big leagues with pitching prospect Jameson Taillon, shortstop Alen Hanson and outfielder Gregory Polanco. Minor League Ball's John Sickels recently published his end of season Top 75 Prospects and here is where he ranked these Pirates prospects:
Jameson Taillon - #12
Gregory Polanco - #21
Alen Hanson - #51
I would be surprised to see the Pirates deal Taillon, but he would have to be the main piece in any deal for a pitcher the likes of Max Scherzer, who presumably, will win the American League Cy Young award in a few weeks. Add in shosttop Alen Hanson and the Pirates would have an ace starter they can match up against the Adam Wainwrights and Mat Latos' in the National League Central race in 2014.
Scherzer to Rangers
I could also see the Rangers making a bid for Scherzer and offering Jurickson Profar straight up for Scherzer would fit needs for both teams. Then again, I can't see the Rangers giving up Profar who has five more years before reaching free agency for a starter who is a year away from free agency. The Rangers have plenty of other talent in their farm system, but Profar is their most attractive piece right now. Adding Scherzer could be one of many offseason moves the Rangers make in retooling their roster in an effort to make the playoffs again in 2014.
Scherzer to the Cardinals
The Cardinals could offer one of their top pitching prospects: Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, or Joe Kelly in a package for Scherzer, and it would make sense for both teams. Adding Scherzer would give the Cardinals two of the top 12 starters in the game to team with Wainwright. Adding a young starter to replace Scherzer, or a major league ready shortstop, is probably what the Tigers would look for in any deal involving Scherzer this offseason.
Scherzer to the Giants
The Giants will lose starter Tim Lincecum to free agency this offseason, so they may look to deal one of their top pitching prospects to land Scherzer. Adding Scherzer to the top of the Giants rotation with Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain could push the team back into the National League playoff picture after finishing in last place this season. Offering one of Kyle Crick or Clayton Blackburn in a package for Scherzer could get a deal done.
What do you think? Who has the best chance at landing Scherzer this offseason, assuming he is traded? Which team did I miss?