Tigers, Max Scherzer agree at $6.725 million

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The Tigers settled at the midpoint with arbitration-eligible right-hander Max Scherzer on Monday, agreeing to a one-year, $6.725 million contract.

Scherzer asked for $7.4 million in arbitration, while the Tigers proposed a $6.05 million salary. He had been Detroit’s only remaining arbitration case.

The 28-year-old Scherzer busted out in the second half of last season, going 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA to finish 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 187 2/3 innings. Only Justin Verlander struck out more batters in the AL, and no qualified starter in either league had a higher strikeout rate (Stephen Strasburg would have, but he just missed the 162-IP mark). He also went 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three postseason starts, fanning at least eight batters each outing.

Scherzer will be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before hitting free agency following the 2014 campaign.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.