With recent reports that the Boston Red Sox are the front-runners to sign free agent pitcher Jon Lester, the Chicago Cubs may have to turn their attention to the perceived second-best arm on the market, Max Scherzer.
Scherzer, 30, had a strong 2014 campaign in which he posted an 18-5 record to go along with a 3.15 ERA and 252 strikeouts. The former Cy Young Award winner also had 1.18 WHIP and earned some third and fourth place votes in the balloting for this year’s American League honors.
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Last season, the right-hander rejected a six-year deal worth $144 million from the Detroit Tigers. With that said, it’s likely that he is either looking for a change of scenery or a lot more money. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s the ladder of the two.
The Cubs have wisely taken a cautious approach thus far in free agency, but now that the they have potentially missed out on two of the top players this offseason (Lester and catcher Russell Martin), it would be sensible for them to aggressively pursue a deal with Scherzer, even if it means spending the big bucks. And being that the righty is a client of Scott Boras, that’s likely what it’s going to take.
Throughout his career, Scherzer has been known to steadily improve as the year goes on. He holds a 38-23 record in the second half of seasons and his overall ERA is 3.15 as opposed to 3.92 in the first half. Last season alone he went 7-2 with 2.87 ERA down the stretch for the Tigers.
Of all the reasons why the Cubs would benefit from this signing, the fact that Scherzer pitched in the American League looms the largest. In most cases, pitchers that transition over to the National League have a higher success rate. This is due in large part to the absence of the designated hitter in N.L, but it’s true nonetheless.
No matter how you slice it, the Cubs are on the brink of serious contention. And if they have any hopes of contending as early as 2015, adding a player of Scherzer’s caliber is a must.