Could the Texas Rangers Pursue Max Scherzer?


Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Texas Rangers really be in on the Max Scherzer market?

About this time last year the Texas Rangers made one of the largest splashes of the offseason by inking Shin-Soo Choo to a seven year deal. Perhaps Jon Daniels has another massive signing in the works this winter.

The Rangers certainly could be contenders to land Scherzer. Let’s consider why that might be the case.

  1. The front office is not afraid to go after big ticket free agents. Consider preceding offseasons. Last year Daniels signed Shin-Soo Choo. In the offseason before the 2012 campaign he signed Yu Darvish. The winter before he signed Adrian Beltre. Max Scherzer is a similarly big time free agent that fits the mold of the type of player Jon Daniels likes. Daniels likes established major leaguers with track records of health.
  2. Jon Daniels’s two largest free agent signings have been Scott Boras clients. Both Choo and Beltre are Scott Boras clients. Boras has a reputation for getting big deals done and making sure he gets his players every dollar possible. This scares away some general managers but it has proven not to be a problem for Daniels.
  3. The Rangers’ offseason has been exceptionally quiet. Aside from dealing for a back of the rotation type pitcher in Ross Detwiler, the team has done nothing of note in acquiring players. This comes despite the team having multiple needs. At some point you have to think Daniels is working on something.
  4. Scherzer would fill a need without blocking future prospects. The Rangers have two known quantities in their rotation as currently constructed. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland make a formidable one two punch atop the rotation but the rest of the rotation is a series of question marks with limited ceilings. Scherzer would push mediocre options like Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez or Ross Detwiler out of the rotation, which would not be likely to cause Ranger fans much distress. Martin Perez is a huge question mark despite his excellent start to 2014 because of his Tommy John injury. Even with prospects like Alex Gonzalez, Jake Thompson and Luke Jackson only a year or two from Arlington a deal with Scherzer would hardly be an issue for giving them a chance at the rotation. Essentially, the rotation has enough holes to fill that Scherzer would not prevent prospects from getting their chance to make the rotation.
  5. The Rangers’ philosophy over the past few years has been to compete without sacrificing the future. The strength, particularly the depth, of the system has allowed the team to sign a few big free agents in order to compete while still keeping farm system depth. Nothing about Daniels’s choices at the 2014 trade deadline or so far this offseason has indicated any change in the Rangers’ philosophy. This team is not rebuilding. They expect to compete in 2015 and one of the team’s biggest needs is another starter. It could be that Daniels wants to make a big acquisition to compete this year.
  6. Big contracts can be offloaded if a player remains healthy. One interesting development in baseball over the past two years has been the willingness of competing teams to trade for big contracts. With more money flowing into baseball because of regional television deals the rate of inflation for baseball contracts has increased. Deals signed this year will look better as time goes because deals signed in future years will quickly outpace current dollar amounts. If a player like Scherzer stays healthy and productive even while the team struggles then the player can still be traded with a big contract. Consider this year, Cole Hamels is an attractive trade option even with what was considered a large contract at the time.
  7. Scherzer is 30 and has proven durable. In 5 seasons with the Detroit Tigers Scherzer never logged fewer than 185 innings and is coming off two his better seasons , one of which was good enough to rob Yu Darvish of a Cy Young award. Buying Scherzer’s age 30-36 seasons is not ideal but neither is it overly risky. Scherzer could easily provide 4 or 5 years of top notch production. Scherzer should still be a top of the rotation pitcher when some of the Rangers’ bigger prospects are set to arrive.
  8. If the team wanted to make a big move and keep their prospects Max Scherzer would be the best option. Given how the West is shaping up if Texas wants to compete they may need an impact addition. The best option among free agents is easily Max Scherzer. He was probably the most talented player in free agency but with Jon Lester, Hanley Rameriez, Pablo Sandoval, and others off the market there remains little doubt that Scherzer is the best available option.

On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons the Rangers will not go after Scherzer.

  • The most obvious problem with signing Scherzer is the contract he is going to command. Presumably the Rangers only have a 5 to 10 million left to spend this—at most. Scherzer is aiming to top Jon Lester’s 6 year 155 million dollar deal. Scherzer could easily get a 7 year 180+ million dollar contract. To do this Daniels would need to get permission from ownership to significantly expand the team’s budget for 2015 and beyond. This seems doubtful to put it lightly.
  • The Rangers probably do not want to add any more bad contracts.

    While it remains a mystery to me why everyone, fans and the media

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    alike, are already labeling both Choo and Fielder disasters for Texas, it still remains a possibility that if these two severely under perform it could badly hamstring the team for a few years. There is a distinct difference between a bad contract and an albatross. Choo, Fielder and Elvis Andrus are all bad contracts, but none of them are albatrosses—yet. Both the Choo and Fielder experiments are off to poor starts and while they could easily return to their all-star caliber production they are unlikely to be able to play up to a level high enough to fully warrant their pay. Over paying for a couple star players in order to get those last few crucial wins is one thing; filing your team with over paid players is another. Over paid veterans is not a recipe for success unless you have the financial resources of the Dodgers or Yankees.

  • Texas needs to fill multiple positions. If the team only needed to fill a rotation hole, signing Scherzer would be an interesting and feasible optoin. As it is this team needs a starting pitcher, another catcher and corner outfielder. Realistically, the team could also greatly benefit from bullpen help. With limited internal options for the above needs it seems more reasonable that Daniels will choose to service several of the team’s weakness instead of using all of the team’s remaining budget in one place and risk leaving the other positions to rookies and bounce back candidates. Of course, other positions could be filled by trading away some of the team’s significant prospect depth.
  • Perhaps the biggest issue with signing Scherzer is that the front office seems to be in a holding pattern. After a disastrous 2014 the Rangers’ future is unclear. The front office appears ready to spend 2015 assessing young players and players coming back from injuries. Signing Scherzer is incredibly risky given the health issues of Holland, Choo, Prince Fielder and Jurickson Profar among others. Are the Rangers really ready to commit to Scherzer with so many significant question marks hanging over the team? Texas is at a crossroads and faces the potential to need a significant rebuild if some of their stars prove to be unable to bounce back.
  • The 2014-2015 offseason is shaping up to a remarkably quiet one for the Texas Rangers. While this is understandable, fans should keep an eye out for Texas to make a big move. It remains a possibility that the Rangers could make a run at landing Max Scherzer.