The hot discussion so far for the Detroit Tigers this spring training has not been about the year ahead but whether two of their pitchers will hit free agency.
We are not even talking about after this season but, rather, what to do with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer after the 2014 season.
Scherzer told MLB.com that he and the Tigers had begun preliminary talks on a long-term deal over the winter but decided instead to work on a deal for this season to avoid arbitration.
The Tigers and Scherzer split the difference between requests and settled (via Jon Heyman) for $6.725 million.
At a press conference Tuesday—the same one where he told reporters that he was not pitching in the upcoming World Baseball Classic—Verlander told Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports that he would love to have teams fighting for his services via free agency.
Before Tigers' fans start to panic, remember that, in the same interview, Verlander told anyone who would listen about his love of the city of Detroit and the Tigers.
Verlander is not going anywhere. The relationship between the player, the team and the city is too strong.
Of course, Verlander would be flattered by the attention and money the other teams would offer in an open auction. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and think that he is out the door the second the 2014 season ends.
Both sides have a general idea of the money and time it will take to get a deal done, whether it is this year or next.
Scherzer, on the other hand, is not such a slam dunk.
Penciled in as the No. 2 starter for 2013, Scherzer also has said publicly that he wants to stay in Detroit long term.
Whether or not he and the Tigers can make something happen in the next year remains to be seen.
Scherzer must figure that he would be worth roughly $13-$15 million a year on the open market. If he has a monster 2013, that number could grow to closer to $20 million per year depending on whether he hits free agency.
Most of this talk the first couple days of camp is just that: talk.
The Tigers have fostered an atmosphere in Detroit that players want to play in.
Anibal Sanchez flirted with other teams before staying with Detroit. Prince Fielder relocated from Milwaukee last year to play with the Tigers long term, and Torii Hunter chose the Tigers as the team he thinks has the best chance to help him grab a World Series ring.
There is no reason to think that either pitcher will go anywhere when the time comes.
While it is certain that the Tigers will come pretty close to matching whatever Verlander wants, they will be a little more cautious when it comes to Scherzer.
Scherzer needs to come out and have a fantastic year to give the Tigers' brain trust a reason to fork over an extension that will take him a few years into the free-agency part of his career.
For most fans, however, the season cannot come fast enough, and all this talk of money tells us that baseball will soon be here.
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