Here’s what we know about Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthpoulous‘ continued quest to build a competitive pitching staff (and team): one, that acquiring a starting pitcher will be a top priority and two, that he apparently will have some the resources in payroll to “move forward”.
Most take that to mean doing so in measured, cautious steps after all the splashes made last offseason yielded … undesired results, but could the team go all-in again? Could moving forward mean a stride to acquire an established ace like Detroit Tigers‘ Max Scherzer?
Before we begin, I suppose you could really replace Scherzer’s name with that of Tampa Bay Rays‘ David Price, who is also rumored (much more heavily so) to be on the trade market this offseason. That said, it’s highly doubtful that Andrew Friedman would ship off his prized, unaffordable lefty to a divisional rival, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s be a pipe dream among pipe dreams.
And yes, I know Scherzer being a Scott Boras client won’t simplify things, but hey … a slim chance is still a chance, right?
All things being equal money-wise, the first thing to look at is whether or not Toronto actually has enough to pry the 29-year-old strikeout artist extraordinaire from the claws of the Tigers, who would probably love to lock him up long-term … if they already didn’t have to worry about the rest of their payroll.
In this regard, you’d think that the teams would be able to get a deal done, albeit at an obviously steep price.
Now, the Blue Jays’ farm system isn’t what it used to be, but it still has its share of high-upside arms like Aaron Sanchez, Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman. You’d have to think that any trade for Scherzer would likely have to involve one (perhaps two?) of them, as well as one of the team’s All-Star relievers in either Brett Cecil or Steve Delabar, and likely one of the Blue Jays’ extra outfielders not named Colby Rasmus (assuming the two sides can get an extension done).
So, would a package of say, Sanchez, Cecil, Moises Sierra and a fourth piece get it done? It would at least give the Tigers something to think about, especially if extension talks between them and Scherzer go sour early on.
Doing so would further gut the Blue Jays’ farm system, but on the other hand, the team did commit to a certain window of opportunity when they brought in folks like R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes, and with age not being on Jose Bautista‘s side, Anthpoulos might find it difficult to balance the timeline of the team’s top prospects arriving to the bigs and contributing, and the number of years that a core of Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Reyes will be productive for at the highest level.
Going into year five of his tenure at the helm of the team, a big move like that is going to be a difficult decision to make, especially after the Dickey trade. That said, if the opportunity came up, it wouldn’t be a surprising if the trajectory of the team nudges him towards the aggressive way, no?
The biggest problem with potentially going after Scherzer is of course, the long-term contract he’ll need. Almost certainly, any contract that the hurler will sign would make him the highest-paid Blue Jays player for at least five years, and given that teams have been doling out nine-figure contracts at pitchers like it’s no big deal, it’s easy to see that the right-hander could get a contract similar to Zack Greinke‘s six-year, $159 million deal.
Even without considering arbitration and dropping the option on guys like Adam Lind, that could essentially represent the whole of the Blue Jays’ expected payroll increase to around $130 million, making it essentially impossible for the team to sign him.
But just for the sake of argument …
What if Toronto and Scherzer could agree to a similar contract with an opt out clause after three years, but instead of it being Greinke’s option in his contract, it would be a mutual opt-out clause? Could the team give a $150 million payroll a try for a couple of seasons?
It’s a nice fantasy, I suppose, but you know … payroll parameters and all, right?