Max Scherzer would be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Some bright baseball guy dropped a bomb, and the trade-rumor meister picked it up and ran amuck with it.
It traveled from CBSSports.com to Fox to ESPN – and soon it was splashing all over the Internet. It quickly hit the Detroit media outlets. And there it was the hot topic on sports radio, pro and con.
This one went ka-boom, squarely on target.
Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. Plus 30 million of Mike Ilitch’s bucks to allow the Tigers to off-load Fielder and his incomprehensibly exorbitant contract to the Texas Rangers.
A bit under two years ago we were congratulating Dave Dombrowski and Ilitch for their baseball acumen in signing Fielder for $214 million over nine seasons.
Immediately, it was assumed that the Tigers were destined to become a World Series dynasty. A bit of juggling, Miguel Cabrera ceding first base to Fielder and switching to third base – and presto.
Well, presto, the Tigers did win a pennant last year before a pratfall sweep by the Giants in the World Series. And they should have won another pennant this year but somehow flopped over in the AL Championship Series to the Red Sox.
Fielder hit some prodigious home runs with Detroit. He also snatched some nachos from a fan ducking a foul ball near first base; he was unproductive in postseason competition – and showed that he had a problem reaching home plate from third base.
Quickly, Fielder was targeted as the villain, booed out of town – the town where he grew up.
And now Dombrowski is being congratulated for dumping Fielder to the Rangers, and saving the bulk of the money due.
To be fair, Dombrowski is no longer pitching a shutout.
Previously, he swindled the Marlins for Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez, the Diamondbacks for Max Scherzer and the Mariners for Doug Fister.
But the Tigers have yet to win a World Series under Ilitch’s proprietorship and with the maneuverings of Dombrowski.
Still, Dombrowski remains the smartest and swiftest general manager in Major League Baseball. My opinion.
Trade gossip makes up most of the hot allure of baseball in November.
And it is well-documented that most of these trade-rumor bombs fizzle out.
I’d say 90 percent are duds.
Fielder-for-Kinsler was a snappily constructed deal. Then the news squirted out and traveled non-stop. Credit Jon Heyman, of CBSSports.com, for a genuine journalism scoop. They are rare.
And this past week’s blockbuster trade comes with a series of potent aftershocks.
Obviously, Cabrera will return to first base, where he belongs. Then again Cabrera benefited with Fielder hitting behind him. Fielder’s potential danger certainly helped Cabrera win his two American League’s most valuable player awards.
And presumably, Detroit will learn whether all the unbridled media ravings about the potential of young Nick Castellanos were warranted. Or not. Castellanos will be presented with the first shot at third base – his natural position – at 2014 spring training.
Then there is the situation with Max Scherzer. Will the Tigers dare trade the reigning Cy Young award winner?
Max is one of the three hottest pitching properties in all of Major League Baseball. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw and Max.
Three Cy Young winners.
And after the 2014 season, Scherzer is due to become a free agent, thus available to the highest bidder.
In this case Dave Dombrowski and Scott Boras are brainy adversaries, dominant on their respective sides of the baseball-contract business.
It is Dombrowski, backed by the largesse from Ilitch, who has built the Tigers into annual contenders.
And on the other side, Boras is the most formidable player agent -- and broker -- in sports.
He happens to be Fielder’s agent. It is not a longshot guess that Boras influenced Fielder’s acceptance of the trade to Texas.
And the coincidence is that Scherzer -- 21-3 plus lots of guts and adrenaline -- also happens to be a client of Boras.
It is one of Boras’ principles to take his clients into free agency and then conduct an auction rather than negotiating extensions to existing contracts.
Therefore, the trade-rumor quacks figured it would be wise business for the Tigers to trade Scherzer now rather than lose him in a free-agency raffle next year.
Except, well, it is one of Dombrowski’s principles to sign precious athletes to contract extensions before they become eligible for free agency. So, it would be wise business for the Tigers to sign Scherzer to a long-term extension in this offseason. That is what Dombrowski did to retain Verlander.
Plus, now there is fresh money available to the Tigers from the departure of Fielder.
Dombrowski and Boras have been frequent sparring rivals. They know each other’s tactics, each other’s strategy. Their dealings started a decade ago when the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez.
They’ll dodge and feint and then deal – and both sides usually end up satisfied.
Boras has his negotiating principle. Scherzer has delivered his candid comments about wishing to stay with the Tigers.
Dombrowski’s next piece of business is to test Boras’ inflexibility.
Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sports writer.