As Pete Rose can tell you, there are strict rules prohibiting betting on baseball when you are in uniform.

As Max Scherzer told us all year, there certainly are no rules against betting on yourself.

Seven months and 3,638 pitches later (Scherzer ranked third in the majors, by the way, behind David Price at 3,730 total pitches and Johnny Cueto at 3,659), the man who declined a ginormous six-year, $144 million offer from the Detroit Tigers is primed to earn even more as a free agent.

As the hot stove fires up, a handful of MLB executives and scouts surveyed by Bleacher Report predict that Scherzer will be a very rich man by the time he reports to camp next spring with the mystery team blank checks (which, word has it, trains in Tall Cotton, Florida).

“It’s a guessing game, but somebody’s going to give him the money,” one longtime National League executive said.

“The offer was so public that everyone knows about it,” a longtime American League executive said of the Tigers’ failed pitch. “So to get in the game, if you’re serious about signing him, you’ve probably got to go higher.

“Because he doesn’t want to look bad, and you want to get a guy coming into spring training on a positive note. So as sick as that sounds, it’s got to be for six or seven years.”

The executives and scouts quizzed for this story all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about either their own team’s winter plans or the plans of others.

But with Scherzer leading a free-agent pitching brigade that includes Jon Lester and James Shields as the other marquee names, the feeling among industry insiders is that, as usual, market demand will outstrip supply. And Scherzer easily will exceed the Tigers’ $144 million offer.

“I think so,” another NL executive said. “You read that the Yankees aren’t going to go after a big one [free agent]. There’s always the Dodgers. I imagine he’ll get more than that.”

The average annual value of the Tigers offer computes to $24 million a year. Tack on a seventh year at that figure, and you’re talking about a $168 million deal. And that still may be low. Two Decembers ago, Zack Greinke, who is nine months older than Scherzer, signed a six-year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers.

One insider predicts a contract “In the [Masahiro] Tanaka range of $175 million,” which takes into account the right-hander’s seven-year, $155 million deal plus the $20 million posting fee the Yanks paid to Tanaka‘s Japanese club, Rakuten.

The Red Sox and Cubs both badly need pitching. The Yankees, despite publicly saying they don’t expect to take on big free-agent contracts, can never be counted out. The Rangers? Always aggressive and creative in the winter. The Cardinals? Scherzer is from St. Louis.

Let the negotiating and the armchair sleuthing begin.

“He’s a horse, there’s no doubt about that,” the AL executive says. “If somebody does go to seven years, it’s got to be a place where he wants to go, too. He’s a Missouri guy. The Cardinals wouldn’t surprise me on him.

“Him turning that money down told me he didn’t want to go to Detroit. Will he take the biggest offer and go to the Yankees? Will he take less and go to the Cardinals? Whatever floats his boat. I’d rather play for the Cardinals. If I’m from Missouri, I do that.”

Scherzer is a smart, educated and fiercely independent man who knows his way around numbers. He loves business. He is one of a handful of players who can talk sabermetrics and analytics intelligently and with passion.

He also is represented by Scott Boras, which immediately reduces the odds that he will take a hometown discount here or lesser dough there as a concession to lifestyle. Boras treats the hot-stove league as Julius Erving once treated Slam Dunk Contests. Throw the next one down harder than the last one.

Scherzer earned a Cy Young Award in 2013 and turns 31 on July 27. He ranked third in the majors this summer in strikeouts (252), 26th in ERA (3.15, ninth in the American League) and 29th in WHIP (1.18, 13th in the AL). He has helped pitch the Tigers into the postseason in four of his five summers in Detroit.

“I’ve seen him since he was a kid, and his stuff always has been top-shelf,” one NL executive said. “I never thought he’d hold up. He’s got stiffness and max effort to him. But he’s been great.”

Scherzer long has been known as a max-effort guy, which translates into a pitcher some scouts fear: There is a violence to his windup and delivery, rather than a smooth, effortless look. Often, that leads to injuries. In the case of Scherzer, it hasn’t.

It sure fuels the debate over the big dollars, though.

“Personally, I wouldn’t give it to him,” one longtime NL executive says. “For the main reason, this guy’s a hard-working guy, but there are a lot of pitches on that arm.

“Is he good? Would you like to see him start for your club? Of course. But does he scare me? Yeah. This is a guy who is a max-effort guy. He gives everything he’s got. He only has one complete game, which is no big thing these days. But there are a lot of pitches on that arm over the past six or seven years.

“If he’s a kid of mine, I’d have kicked him in the ass for turning down that kind of money.”

His decision last spring has sparked many debates. The Tigers took the unprecedented step of issuing a press release in March explaining that they had attempted to make him a Tiger for life, but the ace declined. A Sports Illustrated cover story in April asked, “Max Scherzer has a Cy Young arm and a beautiful mind to match, but did he make a dumb wager on his future?”

Scherzer was incensed over that. Over the rest of the summer, he compiled an 18-5 record, threw a career-high 220.1 innings and, start after start, proved that his decision was a calculated gamble on himself, not the crazy, against-the-odds move of a degenerate.

“This guy’s a No. 1 starter,” stated the same longtime NL executive who said he would have gotten after his own son for turning down that kind of dough. “He needs help at the end of games, which most of them do. He’s a seven-inning guy. But this is a guy who will go out in [the] first inning at times and not have it, allow four runs, and he’s still pitching in the seventh, giving his best.

“That’s the type he is. There are a lot of things you like about Scherzer.”

As clubs almost certainly will be talking about a contract that will take Scherzer to 36 or 37, projections regarding how he will age likely will play a factor in negotiations as well. And despite all of the “max effort” talk, his health so far remains encouraging.

“I think he’ll be OK in that he doesn’t have to throw in the upper-90s to be effective,” one NL scout said. “He’s got that real good changeup. He should be able to make that transition when his stuff is not 95, 96 mph anymore.

“I’ve been surprised over the years that his control has been so good. I thought he’d have a problem with that, too, but he’s proved me wrong.”

Scherzer has been in the business of proving many wrong throughout his career, including the Diamondbacks, who traded him in December 2009. Now poised for the biggest payday of the winter, Scherzer is about to stick it to all of those who doubted him for spurning $144 million in Motown.

“He’s awfully strong,” an AL scout said. “We always said about Kevin Appier that he was gonna break down, gonna break down. Scherzer is so strong; some guys can handle their mechanics, and he’s one of them.

“He added a curveball two years ago, and his changeup has gotten better and better every year. He’s always had the slider. He was a two-pitch guy when he came over from Arizona.

“He’s tough, and he competes.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

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