Max Scherzer is on the verge of winning the American League Cy Young Award. Is he also on the verge of being traded?
"On the verge" might be a bit strong, given that a top-of-the-rotation arm like Scherzer—the favorite to be named the Junior Circuit's top pitcher for the 2013 season on Wednesday—isn't exactly the type of asset that a team with World Series aspirations like the Detroit Tigers just up and deals.
Then again, the team has made it known that it's listening to offers for the 29-year-old, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. That's attributable to the right-hander's looming free agency after 2014. So if the Tigers don't think they can ink Scherzer long-term, a trade could make sense.
The other reason general manager Dave Dombrowski might be up for moving Scherzer is to deal from a strength (i.e., the rotation) to bring back a return that would help the Tigers in their multiple areas of need, namely second base, outfield, catcher and bullpen.
Realize, though, that the Tigers are in win-now mode, coming off three straight AL Central crowns and having been on the doorstep of a championship the past couple years. In other words, if—and it's still a big if—they're going to move Scherzer, it's probably not going to happen for two or three prospects who are a year or two away. They're more likely to want players who can bolster their 25-man roster right away in 2014 and make the club younger and cheaper.
The cost to acquire will be rather high given Scherzer's incredible performance. After all, we're talking about a guy who posted a 2.90 ERA and AL-leading 0.97 WHIP with 10.1 K/9 while also winning 21 games.
Money, though, could be a potential hurdle here, as Scherzer's salary is estimated to double from the $6.725 he earned in 2013 to somewhere in the range of $13-14 million in his final go-round at arbitration. And of course, the fact that his agent is Scott Boras, whose clients generally don't sign extensions before hitting the open market, will only further complicate matters, as any interested parties will be hesitant to give up too much for only one year.
As such, two criteria seem like requirements when it comes to determining which clubs might fit the bill as a trade partner: First, the teams must be contenders ready to make a World Series push next year; and second, there should also be a need for a front-of-the-rotation arm to lead or enhance a staff.
Of course, it wouldn't hurt for inquiring teams to have the funds to at least be able to offer Scherzer a nine-figure extension, if a deal is contingent upon such a pact.
Although it may seem unlikely that Scherzer will be traded, primarily because he's been a key part of the Tigers' success the past few seasons and should be again next year, a freshly minted Cy Young winner was, in fact, swapped just last offseason.
There's a key difference with Scherzer, though: The Tigers are on the opposite end of the competition cycle from the rebuilding Mets.
Whether Scherzer will prove to be the latest ace on the move remains to be seen, but given all of the above circumstances and factors, here's a batch of teams who are most likely to pursue him—and have the means to get a deal done.