MLB: Are Yankees’ Moves a Warmup for Max Scherzer Deal?

Division Series - Baltimore Orioles v Detroit Tigers - Game Three
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The New York Yankees are definitely not going after Max Scherzer. GM Brian Cashman is the first to say it. And maybe the last to be believed.

“I don’t think Yankee fans will be looking at Max Scherzer,” he told NBC’s Bruce Beck weeks ago.

That line has bee parroted about for several weeks, but it still rings hollow. Why? Because three right-handed starter subtractions (and the $20 million they cost) later, the Yankees are in semi-desperate need of a replacement, and Scherzer is the best available (if expensive) one on the market. Several signs point to a Scherzer deal in the cards.

No reason to provoke Boras

Cashman and his staff have no reason to get Scott Boras, Scherzer’s agent, any more excited than he already is about his star client. By all accounts, Scherzer will earn an average of $25 million in annual salary for at least seven years. Saying “The Yankees are involved” drives the price up for everyone concerned, including Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.

In other words, even if the Yankees coveted Scherzer like they did C.C. Sabathia years ago, they gain nothing by saying so. They only stand to lose money by telegraphing interest. As for the argument they cannot afford Scherzer, the moves they have made (and ones made in spite of the Yankees’ interests) have made a significant pile of cash available. Trading Martin Prado brought the Yankees $9 million in savings, as did the lack of a Hiroki Kuroda signing ($16 million in 2014) and not signing free agent Brandon McCarthy.

Coupled with the Yankees’ trade of Shane Greene (for Didi Gregorious), that makes the Yankees down three right-handed starters and up $20 million (as far as the rotation is concerned) since the close of the 2014 season. Connecting the dots isn’t difficult from there.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels?

Besides leaving enough salary flexibility to sign Max Scherzer, the deals in recent weeks could also be seen as a path toward trading for a big fish like Cole Hamels, the Phillies lefty who indicated he would waive his no-trade clause to pitch in New York. The Yankees have strengthened their stock of young, inexpensive pieces, with Nathan Eovaldi the most attractive of the bunch.

As Philadelphia heads toward rebuilding mode, Hamels (and the $94 million owed him in coming years) have no business on the Phillies roster. Eovaldi and prospects such as catcher Gary Sanchez and right-hander Luis Severino would be expensive trading chips, but they might land Cashman and his team an ace southpaw to torment opponents alongside Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Hamels would make the Yankees staff loaded.

Then again, signing Scherzer would “only” cost the Yankees a ton of money and one future draft pick. The tradeoff is they would be indebted to Scherzer and Boras for seven or eight years as opposed to Hamels’s four. Both are deals with the devil on some level.

Of course, all this talk is simply speculation. Just as the Yankees were definitely not in on Mark Teixeira back around Christmas 2008, there is no interest in the Bronx for a right-hand ace like Max Scherzer.