The Yankees have publicly come out and said that there will be no major free agent moves this off-season. Fiscal restraint has come from Yankee executives in the past but that tends to become lip service. This time around it appears that the Yankees mean it, with one exception. That exception is Max Scherzer.
This is not the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury, a move that still baffles me, or the signing of Brian McCann, a move that made more sense if he planned to move to first base. This is a front of the rotation starter and the Yankees are in need of starting pitching. It is hard to believe that a team like the Yankees can spend so much yet still be in this position. Let’s take a look at the five starters expected to start the season in New York.
Masahiro Tanaka – A pure stud but will be returning from an elbow injury that the Yankees hope is not a sign of things to come. If he returns healthy then here is your guy in New York over the next three or four years.
CC Sabathia – He is returning from knee surgery and seems to be collapsing before the Bronx faithful’s eyes. With the amount of career innings under his belt this is no surprise to even the front office who knew they overpaid in the long run.
Ivan Nova – He is returning from elbow surgery and should have never been projected as more than a number three or four starter anyway.
Michael Pineda – The great pine tar assassin just cannot seem to find a way to stay healthy and when he does he appears destined to be suspended for “looking for an advantage.”
That combination of starting pitchers looks more like a physical therapy clinic than a rotation for a team with World Series aspirations. The bullpen in New York appears bright, especially if the Yankees can return David Robertson to partner with Dellin Betances, but if they cannot get a lead to the seventh or eighth innings then it just won’t matter.
Max Scherzer is 30 years old and is a flat out stud. In the last two years, he has a 39-8 record with 494 strikeouts. He has been durable over his last six seasons in Detroit making at least 30 starts in each of those years. Unlike CC Sabathia, Scherzer has not been overtaxed throughout his career. In fact he has averaged 104 pitches per start creating a situation where the Yankees could expect four quality years out of him before the skills begin to erode.
The big question is if the great American League bankroll is willing to fork it out once again. It is true that, over the next couple of years, the Yankees will be separating themselves from the contracts belonging to Alex Rodriguez (10 year deal signed after the 2007 season) and Mark Teixeira (eight-year deal that was signed after 2008 season) but that is not close enough to consider. These two can filed as dead money over the next couple of seasons.
The Yankees opened the 2014 season with a team payroll of $197.23 million but have $181.67 million obligated in 2015. Of course, there are moves that the boys from New York still need to address outside of adding a player like Scherzer. Bringing back Chase Headley is a top concern and the return of David Robertson meets the need as well. But when you consider that this is a team that has been north of $220 million in the past then the possible signing of Scherzer should not be overlooked.
I would expect Scherzer to get a deal in the neighborhood of six or seven-years, $170- $180 million. If you break that down with simple math (not including bonuses, escalators etc.) then that would put the Yankees at about $210 million. They could backload a contract to coincide with the expiration of the Texiera and Rodriguez contracts. Of course, there is the obligatory player opt out in so many contracts lately. At the end of the day it is not about the money in New York.
The Yankees need to win to keep a loud and fickle fan base happy. The promise of always fielding a contender forces the front office to make moves. In Scherzer, the Yankees would gain a pitcher that is not afraid of big city lights and relishes the chance to pitch in the post-season. His career WHIP is actually lower in the post-season then the regular season (1.13 vs. 1.22).
Until he signs this off-season the questions will remain. Will the Yankees chase Scherzer in what is sure to be a crowded market? And if they do, will Scherzer want to pitch in the Bronx? Nobody can say either with certainty. The only certainty is that the Yankees need Scherzer more than Scherzer needs them.