Max Scherzer is inching closer to free agency.
Both the Detroit Tigers and the star right-hander's agent say negotiations on a new contract have stalled. Scherzer, the American League Cy Young Award winner, can test the open market after this season, and as opening day approaches that looks more and more probable.
Both sides have indicated an unwillingness to negotiate once the season starts, and the Tigers released a statement Sunday morning saying a recent offer to Scherzer was turned down.
"The Detroit Tigers have made a substantial, long-term contract extension offer to Max Scherzer that would have placed him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected," the team said. "As we have reiterated, it has been the organization's intent to extend Max's contract and keep him in a Tigers uniform well beyond the 2014 season. While this offer would have accomplished that, the ballclub's focus remains on the start of the upcoming season, and competing for a world championship.
"Moving forward there will be no further in-season negotiation and the organization will refrain from commenting on this matter."
Scott Boras, Scherzer's agent, struck a similar tone, although he indicated Scherzer made his own offer to the team.
"Max Scherzer made a substantial offer for an extension to the Detroit Tigers that would have made him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball and it was rejected," Boras said. "Max is very happy with the city of Detroit, his fans and teammates and he'll continue to negotiate with the Detroit Tigers at season's end."
Scherzer went 21-3 last season with a 2.90 ERA, striking out 240 in 214 1-3 innings and leading Detroit to its third straight AL Central title.
Scherzer is slated to make $15,525,000 million this season after avoiding arbitration with the Tigers. Then he can become a free agent.
Detroit's recent offer to Scherzer was worth $144 million over six years, from 2015-20, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Philadelphia's Cole Hamels signed a $144 million, six-year contract that began last year. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw signed a record-breaking, seven-year deal worth $215 million in January.
Shortly before last season, Detroit reached an agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a $180 million, seven-year deal.
Kershaw and Verlander weren't free agents when they signed, so there's no telling what price Scherzer might command on the market. But he'll have to pitch well again this season to keep his value high.
Now, it looks like Scherzer's future could remain in doubt for a while.