1. January Will Bring the Max Scherzer Thaw

Spring training is little more than a month away, which means the biggest marquee free agent this side of Jon Lester is about to sign with…

“The two sleepers all along for me were St. Louis and Washington,” one American League executive said of Max Scherzer’s possible destinations. “They’re just guesses. I can see him with the Yankees, too, or going back to Detroit.”

Happy New Year, in case I missed you the first time around, and please join our executive friend in the biggest guessing game remaining before pitchers and catchers report: Which club will push to the max for Max?

The Cardinals have not previously shown an appetite to spend the $200 million or so that Scott Boras, Scherzer’s agent, hinted at last month, but we can all agree (can’t we?) that Scherzer to St. Louis makes a ton of sense. It’s his hometown, the Cubs are closing the gap fast in the NL Central, and St. Louis’ rotation is working under potential storm clouds: Adam Wainwright (elbow), Michael Wacha (shoulder) and Jaime Garcia (you name it) all are recovering from health issues.

Talk surrounding the Nationals has quieted down from earlier this winter, when Jordan Zimmermann’s name was in the rumor mill. Plus, with outfielder Jayson Werth’s shoulder surgery keeping him sidelined for two or three months, Washington has other, more pressing issues.

But the relationship between Boras and the Lerner family—owner of the Nationals—is very good, and for that reason alone, you can’t completely discount Washington until Scherzer has signed elsewhere. Among the Boras clients with the Nats: Werth, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa.

The Yankees expect CC Sabathia to be full-go when they report to Tampa later this month, but they have the two most important things where Scherzer is concerned: Money and need. Even if healthy, Sabathia is no longer what he once was and will turn 35 on July 21. And with luck, Masahiro Tanaka will pitch the entire season after rehabbing his elbow injury last summer.

But Tommy John surgery lurks in the background. Many pitchers with Tanaka’s injury (Chad Billingsley being one recent example) have tried the rehab route before having to undergo surgery. Depending on Tanaka to make 33 or 34 starts at this point is a risky plan for the Yankees.

The Tigers? General manager Dave Dombrowski said last month, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck, that there are no talks ongoing but “I guess that anything can happen.” The Tigers were rebuffed by Scherzer last spring when they made a six-year, $144 million offer. 

Given Boras’ track record, even in a Scherzer market that has been noticeably quiet, history has shown time and again that it is foolish to underestimate the agent. But where Detroit is concerned, it appears that the only way that works is if Scherzer’s market doesn’t develop as expected and he falls back to Detroit on a short-term deal.

As for Scherzer, he’s mostly stayed under the radar this winter, though he did pop up to say hello on Sunday:

Prediction: Yankees.

 

2. The Cardinals May Have a Big Move Left

As Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi over at Fox Sports reported last week