Max Scherzer believes in the Mets, it seems.
He believes in the Mets’ money, no doubt about that. Owner Steve Cohen, on the heels of losing out on pitcher Steven Matz — who signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Cardinals last week, prompting the much-discussed angry tweet from Cohen — has lured the future Hall of Famer to his ballclub for a substantial amount of money.
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The reported contract for the 37-year-old Scherzer, who has finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting — including three wins — each of baseball’s past eight full seasons (not counting the shortened 2020 campaign), is no doubt eye-popping: three years, $130 million . That’s an average annual value of $43.3 million per year. Next on the list of highest AAV : Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole, at $36 million.
That’s quite the leap, from $36 million to $43.3 million. Especially for a 37-year-old pitcher. But the Mets believe in Scherzer’s ability to help them avoid the collapse that tanked their 2021 season, for good reason; the team went 29-45 in the second half last season while Scherzer’s two teams (the Nationals and Dodgers) went a perfect 13-0 in his second-half starts, with Scherzer posting a 2.21 ERA.
So, yeah, it’s not at all surprising that the Mets believe in Scherzer. But it is at least somewhat surprising that the famously intense and competitive Scherzer would agree to play for the Mets, given their recent track record and the multiple issues they still have with the franchise right now. Like, y’know, finding a manager for 2022 and beyond.
For the Mets, it wasn’t just about offering enough money to land Scherzer. Cohen has money. The most difficult part of Project Sign Max was always going to be convincing him the Mets have a plan in place that gives him a legitimate shot at winning the World Series on what will likely be his final multiple-year contract.
Check out what Scherzer said in his first news conference after he was traded to the Dodgers : “I’m glad I’m with an organization that wants to win and has their sights set on the ultimate prize. That’s what we play the game for, to do that. I’ve been in the league long enough to know those things don’t always happen and they don’t always fall into place.”
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With the Nationals, Scherzer had veto power for any trade the team might have wanted to make, so he had a lot of control in the process and wound up pitching for the reigning World Series champs, a team on pace to win 100-plus games. As a free agent, he had completely and total power over his destination.
That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that Scherzer believes the Mets are destined to win 100 games every year he’s there. But it means he thinks the team has a chance to compete for World Series titles. Let’s go back to that Dodgers news conference: “In October baseball, funny things happen sometimes,” he said.
Funny things like a Nationals team that was once 19-31 catching fire, winning 93 games and claiming a wild-card spot, then rolling through the NL side of the playoffs and winning four road games in the World Series to claim the franchise’s first-ever championship.
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That team was led by the 1-2 pitching punch of Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, who combined for a 2.17 ERA in 66 1/3 postseason innings. It’s not hard to see how Scherzer could envision he and Jacob deGrom doing something similar.
And, yes, the Mets still have issues, plural. They need to hire a manager and, basically, and entire coaching staff. They could use another starter, with Marcus Stroman unlikely to return and Noah Syndergaard now out of the Mets’ equation. They got their center fielder, Starling Marte, a big boost, and brought in outfielder Mark Canha and versatile infielder Eduardo Escobar. They could use a couple of bullpen arms, especially a lefty reliever with Aaron Loupe — who had an 0.95 ERA in 65 games — signing with the Angels.
Skeptical Mets fans probably will still be skeptical — they’ve seen too much — but the Mets sold Max, and that should make them feel happy.