If you were operating under the assumption that Max Scherzer would return to the Tigers, your baseball brain should feel a few pounds lighter today.
Scherzer got his money, and from a surprising source -- the Washington Nationals, who signed Scherzer to a seven-year deal worth more than $180 million and have built a possible superteam in the process -- unless they have to subtract from their depth of high-quality players (Jordan Zimmerman? Doug Fister?) to make their books work.
That contract vindicates Scherzer, who didn't much care for this Sports Illustrated cover ...
... but answered the question with a resounding "NOPE!"" regardless.
It also should come as a relief to the White Sox, because the Mizzou product was a thorn in their side over 23 starts in a Detroit uniform. He had the Sox figured out even before he discovered his Cy Young form:
The numbers would've looked more imposing if Scherzer stopped at 22 starts. He went 4-0 in his first four starts against the Sox, holding the Sox to just three runs over 28 innings. That stretch included his first complete game, which took the form of a shutout to really stick it to Steve Stone.
But on Aug. 30, the Sox pounded him for six runs (five earned) on nine hits over 6⅔ innings, including homers by Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers. That raised his lifetime ERA against the Sox from 2.35 to 2.54, so, you know, take that.
With Scherzer heading to the DC and the NL, Detroit's vaunted rotation looks a lot more vulnerable ...
|Max Scherzer||David Price|
|David Price||Anibal Sanchez|
|Anibal Sanchez||Justin Verlander|
|Justin Verlander||Alfredo Simon|
|Rick Porcello||Shane Greene|
... but Dave Dombrowski doesn't leave exhaust ports exposed on his Death Star, and it wouldn't make sense to be cavalier with the back end of the rotation now.
Nobody blinked at the $68 million he gave Victor Martinez because the Tigers are as win-now as any organization. Trading Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes made more sense when Brad Ausmus was riddled with aces. Those moves drift toward "incongruous" territory with this news, but should there be any fire to the James Shields smoke, order will have been mostly restored.
While Scherzer has a Cy Young Award and a fifth-place finish the last two years, Shields has held his own:
Shields is good enough to keep the overarching plan in the place, even though it would be a downgrade (note the difference in unearned runs), so this is the next thing to watch. Getting Scherzer out of the Central is great news for the Sox regardless of who replaces him. Now we wait to see how much Dombrowski reduces the net satisfaction.