Well, the hot stove got a little heated tonight.
Although there are a handful of rumors to get to soon, there’s one that demands immediate attention this evening, thanks not only to the high-profile name at the heart of the rumor, but also thanks to the implications of a deal.
According to multiple reports, top free agent arm Max Scherzer is close to finally signing a deal (e.g., Jon Heyman), possibly for seven years and definitely for a ton of money, with either the Washington Nationals or The Mystery Team. The Nationals are quietly confident they’ll get him, according to Ken Rosenthal, who adds that the mystery team is not the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, or Dodgers. The Tigers are also reportedly out, which is probably the biggest surprise among that group, just ahead of the Yankees.
The one possible mystery team not yet listed as out? It’s the team that was recently reported as considering Scherzer, the Cardinals.
If you’re wondering, no, I don’t think the Cubs are going to shock the world on this one. But that doesn’t mean there might not be Cubs-related implications here. Recall, back in November, there were rumors that the Nationals could look to sign someone like Scherzer and then trade a one-year guy like Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister. Indeed, that’s again been floated on Twitter today by several reporters in the wake of the Scherzer rumor.
Would the Cubs considering making a move for Zimmermann, whom Jon Morosi says the Nationals have discussed in trade talks recently? Morosi adds that the Nats would also consider moving Stephen Strasburg (who would cost an absurd amount), but Zimmermann is more likely. Although the rumors late last year connecting the Cubs to Zimmermann were shot down by front office sources at the time, it’s fair to wonder whether the now-actualized additions of Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, which came after the prior rumors, changes the discussion in one direction or the other.
The tricky part on Zimmermann might not be the mere one year of control or the acquisition price – the Cubs might be in a good position to take advantage of the former and can handle the latter – but instead could be the $16 million salary Zimmermann carries into 2015. At nearly $110ish million in payroll commitments already, the Cubs might be approaching their ceiling for 2015 (it’ll grow progressively higher in the coming years, but the reality is, there is a limit this year).
Setting aside any specific Cubs/Zimmermann stuff, which may or may not ever even become a serious rumor (much less a thing that can actually happen), the implications of Scherzer going to the Nats, and then the Nats dealing a starting pitcher, are really wide-ranging. They could impact the James Shields market. They could impact a perceived divisional race, pushing a team to want to more aggressively add elsewhere. They could force a team to try and shed some salary so they can take on a Zimmermann, opening up an opportunity. I could go on.
I’ll draw no conclusions just yet, until something more firm shakes out. The point here is only to say that following the Scherzer story is probably a good idea, because it could impact the market and the Cubs in a number of really significant ways.
UPDATE: Adam Kilgore says the deal is “very close” with the Nats, which makes you wonder if The Mystery Team was actually just a “mystery team” all along, and the goal has been to extract a few more dollars out of Washington.