Last week, Jayson Stark of ESPN reported the speculation of anonymous sources that the St. Louis Cardinals might be the mystery team interested in Jon Lester. It turned out that the mystery team was the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Lester will make his choice from among offers made by the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and Dodgers. That is, if the New York Yankees don't jump into the bidding.
Twitter gossip Jon Heyman apparently also has a blog that is hosted by CBS. In that space, Heyman has shared some speculation of his own—not from any anonymous source. Heyman wonders: "Might fiscally conservative Cardinals make run at hometowns star Scherzer?" That's Scott Boaras client Max Scherzer, a former Cy Young winner and the righty who turned down a six-year contract-extension offer from the Detroit Tigers during spring training that was reportedly worth a little less than $144 million, according to FOX's Jon Morosi, if you wanted an idea of the ballpark in which the bidding will start.
Given Heyman's penchant for regurgitating morsels fed to him by Team Boras, it isn't surprising to see him pen a post speculating that perhaps the Cardinals will break with their clear-eyed, prudent approach to free-agent spending for Scherzer. After all, Scherzer isn't going to sign this week. That isn't the way Boras operates. Scherzer's free agency ought to stretch into January. All the better to plant the seed of broad interest at the Winter Meetings. What is surprising are the tidbits that Heyman uses to form the foundation of his speculation in addition to Scherzer's Missouri roots.
The Cardinals met at some point on Scherzer, and word is that at least a couple of Cardinals players or former players have called Scherzer to make a pitch about the team. Scherzer, as a product of suburban Chesterfield, Mo., Parkway Central and the University of Missouri, obviously is already familiar with the town.
Of course the Cardinals met and discussed Scherzer. They also reached out to Lester's represenatives earlier in the Hot Stove. As St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Derrick Goold reported late last month, it's a part of performing due diligence:
Reports, originating first from ESPN’s Jim Bowden, connected the Cardinals to lefty Jon Lester, who along with St. Louis native Max Scherzer are the top starting pitchers available as free agents. While Scherzer’s market is still percolating — not unusual for a headliner and Scott Boras client — Lester has drawn offers from Boston and the Chicago Cubs, according to reports. He has also made visits to teams, including the Cubs and Atlanta Braves. The Cardinals, as of this week, had no plans to bring Lester to St. Louis for a visit. Their interest in the lefty appears as much opportunistic as enthusiastic — what Mozeliak has often referred to as "due diligence." A baseball official at the general manager meetings earlier this month suggested, hypothetically, if the Cardinals could enter the fray for Lester then why wouldn’t they pursue Scherzer, who is six months younger and from the area?
Why not? That seems to be the jumping off spot for Heyman. The Cardinals discussed Scherzer earlier this offseason. And some Cardinals have made recruiting phone calls to the righty. Why not?
For starters, the Cardinals have never signed a pitcher to a contract that is anywhere close to what it will take to land Scherzer. Adam Wainwright's pre-2013 extension created what was effectively a six-year contract, which is the same length as the extension Scherzer reportedly declined from the Tigers in March. But the Waino extension created a contract that had an overall value of $109.5 million; or, $34.5 million less than the proposal Scherzer refused in March. So the starting point in the Boras-led Scherzer bidding is a deal about $35 million more than the one to which the Cards inked Wainwright.
For Mozeliak's part, he's sticking to his talking points. He won't comment on free agents. The Cardinals are not in the market for free-agent pitching; they are on the "sidelines," as Goold quoted Mozeliak, of the free-agent pitching market. "Opportunistic," again per Goold, is their approach. Oh, and he knows nothing about any recruiting phone calls from current Cardinals to Scherzer. Not that he would tell Heyman of a concerted St. Louis effort to land the market's biggest fish, but still, such calls seem more like a grassroots movement than anything orchestrated top-down by the front office. You can put as much stock in this Mospeak as you see fit. Mozeliak's actions as GM speak louder than words expressed to the press, and the Cardinals haven't come close to spending on a free-agent pitcher what it will cost to sign Scherzer. That's why not.