It’s still hard to tell where Max Scherzer is going to sign, but logic says that he’ll end up signing with the team that simply has to have him.

According to the latest report, that team is the Detroit Tigers. And if we once again ask our pal logic, it says said report might be right.

Courtesy of Tony Paul of The Detroit News, here it is:

Now, this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the Tigers are going to go out of their way to re-sign the 30-year-old right-hander. Paul noted in a subsequent tweet that the same source told him Scherzer‘s market remains quiet and that, not surprisingly, the Tigers aren’t about to bid against themselves.

Further, it’s a good guess that Paul’s source isn’t Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski. He’s too smart to let something like that slip, and it was only last month that he was downplaying his pursuit to re-sign the 2013 American League Cy Young winner.

“I guess anything can happen but we’re not in active pursuit of that situation at this time,” he told Anthony French of the Detroit Free Press.

Still, this is the time of year when you take any little bit of smoke you can get on the rumor mill. And in this case, there is something to the notion that the Tigers may feel like they truly need Scherzer.

To the first point in Paul’s report, yes, signing Scherzer would take care of the concern over Price’s long-term future with the Tigers. 

Price is due to become a free agent after 2015. Since he’s easily the best pitcher the Tigers have, that leaves the organization’s “Long-Term Ace” slot empty. The Tigers could change that by extending Price, but that’s where there are complications.

With free agency only a year away, Price isn’t going to be receptive to anything less than market value. Since his current market value is probably in the same neighborhood as Scherzer‘s, extending Price likely wouldn’t mean a discount.

And though he’s the older of the two pitchers, Scherzer may be a safer long-term investment. Both come with declining velocity concerns, but FanGraphs can show that Scherzer‘s arsenal of pitches is more diverse than Price’s. That gives him a better chance of adapting to a significant velocity loss.

So if it’s the long run the Tigers are worried about, there’s a lot of sense in re-signing Scherzer. A long-term contract for him is more readily attainable than one for Price, and would be a better investment to boot.

But of course, these are the Tigers we’re talking about.

Though they’re presumably not ignoring their long-term future completely, pretty much everything they’ve done in recent years has been done out of a clear win-now mindset. More so than whether they need Scherzer in their long-term plans, the real question is if the Tigers need Scherzer to win now.

Paul’s source indicates the Tigers think the answer is yes, in part because Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez are on thin ice. And while it bears repeating that this source may not actually be speaking for the organization, it’s notable that the rest of the league is thinking along these lines.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported this in late December:

The more you ask baseball executives about where Scherzer will end up, the more the answers come back Detroit. The Tigers know and like Scherzer, and the feeling is they need him after trading Rick Porcello to the Red Sox, and obtaining Alfredo Simon from the Reds and Shane Greene from the Yankees

It’s weird to picture the Tigers without an elite starting rotation, as nobody has done starting pitching like them in recent years. Go back to 2012, and FanGraphs has their starters producing 17.3 more Wins Above Replacement than the next-best team. That’s some gap.

And yet, that’s the direction the Tigers are headed.

A rotation of Price, Verlander, Sanchez, Greene and Simon doesn’t sound all that great on paper, and FanGraphs doesn’t project it to be that great:

The good news is that projections aren’t gospel. They can be argued with.

For example, I’m not quite buying is that Greene will fall that flat. He debuted to a solid 3.78 ERA in 2014. And having watched a handful of his starts, I’ll wager Brandon McCarthy isn’t too far off base in thinking Greene has “stupid electric stuff.”

But Greene aside, it’s hard to disagree with these projections.

Barring a velocity resurgence, Verlander probably won’t be drastically improving his ERA from last season’s 4.54 mark. Given his injury history, that probably is about as many innings as you can count on from Sanchez. After revealing his true self down the stretch after his All-Star first half in 2014, the American League probably will kick Simon’s butt that hard.

Compacting matters is that the Tigers don’t have much…heck, any depth below those five. If the rotation they have now were to crash and burn in 2015, they’d need either a whole lot of relief pitching or a whole lot of offense to survive it.

And that’s where we find more question marks.

A bullpen that was among the worst in the league in 2014 hasn’t gotten any significant upgrades. Re-signing Victor Martinez and trading for Yoenis Cespedes should ensure more good offense in 2015, but the Tigers need to worry about whether J.D. Martinez can repeat his 2014 breakout (not likely) and whether Miguel Cabrera can stay healthy (not likely) and get back to being his old self (not likely).

Granted, you can still look at the big picture in Detroit and see a quality team. A series of question marks don’t equal a total disaster, so it’s not surprising that the Tigers aren’t projected to be one in 2015.

It is, however, equally unsurprising that they’re not projected by FanGraphs to be head and shoulders better than the rest of the AL Central:

Though the Tigers are projected as the best team in the division, it’s a close call between them and the Cleveland Indians. The Kansas City Royals should also be somewhere in the mix. And based on their offseason activities, these projections are probably underrating the Chicago White Sox.

The Tigers are sort of in the same boat as the St. Louis Cardinals. They’re projected to be the best team in the NL Central, but it’s close enough to a point where they should indeed be thinking about following through on their interest in Scherzer, Price or Cole Hamels. There is, after all, a huge difference between winning the division and merely securing a spot in a one-game wild-card playoff.

If the Tigers can get to Scherzer first, all they’d need to do to improve their contention chances in 2015 is insert him in their rotation. With a projection that calls for a 3.02 ERA and 3.8 WAR in 195 innings, he’d look awfully good next to Price.

It’s either that or the Tigers could use Scherzer‘s signing as an excuse to trade Price. Maybe they’d still have a thin starting rotation, but a stronger bullpen and/or lineup would help make up for that.

As Dombrowski seemed to indicate back in December, it could be that the Tigers aren’t desperate to bring back Scherzer. That would be a defensible position, as the projections say they have enough to contend in the AL Central. 

It is, however, believable that Tigers might feel like they have to have Scherzer. Beyond him being the long-term ace they need, he’s their ticket to cementing themselves as the team to beat in their division.

Of course, it’ll cost the Tigers. Scherzer is said to want $200 million, and presumably won’t be signing for less than Jon Lester’s $155 million. Because they already have their share of big long-term contracts, the guys in the Tigers front office can’t downplay those figures more than anyone else can.

Except, maybe, their boss. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has deep pockets, and one source was quick to remind Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post that he doesn’t mind spending it.

“All it takes,” said the source, “is for the owner to say he’ll sign that check, and it gets done.”

If that goes for anything Ilitch wants, maybe it goes double for things he needs.


Note: Stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted/linked.  

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more MLB news on