By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT - The Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox have all offered starting pitcher Jon Lester deals in the range of six years for $150 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
One team, Rosenthal writes, could go as high as seven years for $175 million.
The bidding war over Lester bodes well for starting pitcher Max Scherzer, who is expected to wait for Lester to sign before he inks an even more lucrative deal. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports the New York Yankees may make a run for Scherzer and that the three teams who fail to sign Lester could also be interested in trying to land Scherzer.
Scherzer is expected to command more money than Lester for several reasons.
Both Lester and Scherzer turned in stellar seasons in 2014, with Lester recording an ERA of 2.46 and Scherzer an ERA of 3.15. Over the last three seasons, however, Scherzer's 3.24 ERA bests Lester's mark of 3.65 over the same span.
While Lester had 200-plus-strikeout seasons earlier in his career and in 2014, Scherzer has turned in 230-plus in each of the last three years.
Scherzer's lower career pitch count also gives him an edge. While he and Lester both turn 31 in 2015 - Lester in January, Scherzer in July - Lester is already 27,637 pitches into his career at the top level, and Scherzer has thrown 22,003.
Given that Scherzer has averaged 3,338 pitches per full regular season, he can make it through almost two more seasons - one full one and 69 percent of another - before he has thrown as many pitches as Lester has already thrown at this point.
Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has not ruled out a return by Scherzer, but he has not spoken optimistically about the possibility. He would not say last week, however, whether Detroit's earlier offer to the ace - reported at $144 million for six years - remains on the table.
Dombrowski maintains the Tigers are content with their rotation, which - if it stays as it is - will include Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, David Price, Rick Porcello and Shane Greene. Price and Porcello will become free agents after the 2015 season, meaning the Tigers could enter 2016 with only Verlander, Sanchez and Greene in the fold.
While Dombrowski has stated the Tigers could use a corner outfielder and some bullpen help for the upcoming season, he remains firm that starting pitching is the foundation of the team. He even stated he does not expect Detroit would trade a starter - the team has reportedly been listening to offers on Porcello and Price - for an outfielder.
While Detroit's rotation might be sufficient for next season, Dombrowski has surely considered the future.
If Porcello and Price leave in free agency and the Tigers make no additions, Detroit will be left with a trio of pitchers who come with question marks attached. Verlander, so mighty for so many years, has struggled in the last two seasons, dealing with an injury in 2013 and dealing with the recovery from offseason surgery in 2014. Sanchez has pitched well but missed a serious chunk of last season because of injuries. Greene, at 26 years old, has only half a season of major league experience.
Detroit evidently did not like any of its minor league starters enough to count on one in the fifth spot of the rotation for 2015. While the Tigers might expect development from the young players in the organization, it would be somewhat surprising if they did not make a forward-looking move to shore up the rotation - maybe by signing a free agent starter, maybe by striking a long-term deal with Price or Porcello.
The winter meetings have been quiet so far for the Tigers, but knowing Dombrowski, that will likely change.
The Tigers look to have a perfectly solid rotation for 2015, but the future appears a bit more murky. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch ponied up with a big-time contract for designated hitter Victor Martinez, the best hitter in the game. While unexpected, it would not be altogether shocking if he did the same for Scherzer, widely considered the game's best pitcher.
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