Scott Boras: Tigers know Max Scherzer willing to return

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

San Diego — The Scott Boras Extravaganza blew into town Wednesday afternoon, with the mega-agent holding court in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt.

And while there were more than an hour's worth of questions asked. the topic du jour was Max Scherzer.

With Jon Lester signing with the Cubs on Tuesday night, all eyes are turning to Scherzer.

Not that Boras wants any comparisons made — nor does he think Lester's $155 million deal will impact his top client's market.

"Max is a Peyton Manning No. 1 kind of guy," Boras told a 10-deep throng of reporters. "There were not going to be any other pitchers that would affect his free-agent pursuit."

Scherzer has spent five mostly magnificent seasons with the Tigers, winning the Cy Young in 2013 and pitching nearly as well in 2014.

He's said to be searching for a deal in the $200 million range.

The Tigers, for their part, continue to downplay any talk of Scherzer returning, with general manager Dave Dombrowski saying repeatedly since the Shane Greene deal that Detroit has five starting pitchers it likes very much.

What Dombrowski has never said, publicly, is that Scherzer absolutely will not return to Detroit in 2015.

Coming back has been Scherzer's preference for some time, though it won't happen for the $144 million the Tigers offered — and he rejected — last spring.

"I've had this conversation with the Tigers about his willingness to return and that's been expressed at every level," Boras said.

Then Boras started the next sentence with "he had" before, interestingly, quickly changing the tense.

"He's had a great experience in Detroit," Boras said. "He has certainly left that door open."

When Scherzer turned down the Tigers' $144 million offer — a rejection the Tigers, out of character, went public with so that the fan base would know they tried — he made it clear he liked the idea of testing the market.

And while there's been little buzz about Scherzer to this point, that likely has to do with the "domino effect" — with many teams waiting on Lester's decision.

Some of the teams that lost out on Lester, no question, will turn their attention to Scherzer, though he's still expecting much more than Lester's $155 million.

The Yankees' interest has been the subject of conflicting reports, the Nationals seem like a fit, the Giants have money to spend after losing Pablo Sandoval and losing out on Lester. And then there's the Tigers.

Asked if he was surprised the Tigers' haven't been very public in their desire to keep Scherzer, Boras responded only that "the interest has been great for Max." He was talking in general teams, not about Detroit. He wouldn't get specific about any teams.

That said, Boras did say he met with multiple owners about Scherzer during the Winter Meetings, which wrap up Thursday.

"These types of contracts are ownership decisions," Boras said. "They affect whether a team is a championship-caliber team, they affect attendance, they affect media rights, they affect the value of the franchise.

"These are widely impactful decisions."

Scherzer, 30, was 82-35 with a 3.52 ERA in 161 starts for the Tigers over the last five years. Outside of one brief hiccup his first year in Detroit — he briefly earned a demotion to Triple-A Toledo — he's been either the ace of the staff or Ace 1B.

Boras likes to say Scherzer has the arm of a 26-year-old, because his pitch and inning "odometer" is lower than others his age. But that's agent speak. His velocity definitely remains substantial, his change-up and curveball are legit out pitches, and he's had great postseason success with the Tigers — even if the fans will never forgive him for not being able to go one more inning in Game 2 of the 2013 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.

Fans also weren't pleased he turned down the $144 million over six years — which Boras actually calls a $160 million deal for seven years, because it included the one arbitration deal, for 2014, that Scherzer ended up taking.

The Tigers last July traded for David Price as protection against Scherzer leaving. But it only takes one phone call, from Mike Ilitch, to keep that from happening. And neither Boras nor the Tigers have ruled that out.

"Mike Ilitch is very involved in this team," said Boras, who, full disclosure, has made millions in commissions off Ilitch's willingness to spend when others wouldn't. "He's deserved every bit of respect. He's always done everything to make his team and that city what it's become."