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The legendary ace Max Scherzer set to join the New York Mets on a historic three-year, $130 million deal, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports.
Max Scherzer and the Mets are finalizing $130M, 3-year deal. Minor details to go only.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 29, 2021
The $43.3 million per season would demolish MLB's all-time record for average annual value, currently held by Gerrit Cole's $36 million per year pact. ESPN's Jeff Passan reports the deal includes an opt-out after the second season, and the New York Post's Joel Sherman indicates the contract includes a full no-trade clause.
A physical would also still be required, but if completed the deal gives the Mets an astonishing one-two punch of Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. It also keeps the spotlight squarely on a team that has succeeded mostly at producing soap opera-style drama over the past five years. Amid an ownership change and repeated off-field tumult, the Mets have seemingly defied their own talented rosters — managing no better than third in the NL East since 2016's wild-card game appearance, with only one winning season and no more playoff berths.
Like Francisco Lindor last offseason, Scherzer is the biggest, best idea they have to rectify that situation and bring playoff baseball back to Queens, and owner Steve Cohen is willing to pony up to pay for it.
At age 37, the three-time Cy Young winner was somehow still at the peak of his powers in 2021. After a blockbuster deadline deal landed him with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Scherzer posted a scorching 1.98 ERA over 11 starts and 68 1/3 innings. He finished third in a bid for his fourth Cy Young.
In total, he tallied a 2.46 ERA across 179 1/3 innings and led the league with a 0.864 WHIP. He also hurled 16 2/3 postseason innings with a 2.16 ERA, but if there’s one reason for concern it’s that he experienced arm fatigue that held him out of an NLCS start.
That is worrisome for an aging arm, but Scherzer has mostly emerged on the other side of injury worries whenever they have arisen. He was famously scratched from Game 5 of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series triumph with debilitating neck and back spasms only to return for the Game 7 win. On a broader scale, he has started at least 27 games in every full season since 2009.
That track record will one day come to an end, and the deal certainly stretches one year longer than the industry had expected, but betting against "Mad Max" before then feels like a fool’s errand.
The new Mets: Have money, will spend
Landing Scherzer — the biggest name in an intriguing, if polarizing, starting pitching market — gives Cohen, the billionaire Mets owner, another huge splash as he attempts to right a ship thrown asunder by underperformance, injury and front office turmoil.
Since hiring Billy Eppler as GM on Nov. 18, the Mets have doled out deals to Starling Marte ($78 million, four years), Mark Canha ($26.5 million, two years) and Eduardo Escobar ($20 million, two years). Cohen also got in a public spat with former Mets starter Steven Matz's agent after the lefty signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
All of that looks tame compared to the swing the Mets are making for one of this generation's best players.
Scherzer, an eight-time All-Star renowned for his relentless intensity, lends instant credibility to a Mets team that often finds itself as the butt of jokes. Scherzer and Jacob deGrom (who has recently been the best pitcher in the world when healthy) won the NL Cy Young each year between 2016 and 2019.
Not in need of a shortstop with Francisco Lindor already signed for more than a decade, Scherzer was the biggest possible fish Cohen's Mets could go after this offseason, and now they have reeled him in. (They have not, for the record, hired a manager or a coaching staff.)
There is still work to do to round out the team. They now have a jumble of corner infielders and outfielders to sort through. Plus, the rest of the rotation remains uncertain beyond No. 3 starter Taijuan Walker. Marcus Stroman, who was a reliably strong performer over a season-and-a-half with the Mets, remains on the free agent market, as does trade deadline acquisition Javier Báez.
Scherzer sparks bidding war again
For the second time in a year, Scherzer's brilliance set up a bidding war.
With a potential lockout looming, MLB's free agent market became a frenzy Sunday night. The Dodgers, Giants and Angels were all rumored to be offering up short-term deals with huge average annual values. Scherzer's deal towers over even the other top names on the market. Kevin Gausman, coming off two breakout seasons in San Francisco, reportedly agreed to a five-year, $110 million pact with the Toronto Blue Jays, while future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, coming off an injury, returned to the Houston Astros on a one-year, $25 million deal earlier this month.
Over the summer, the Dodgers swooped in at the trade deadline with a dramatic move to get Scherzer and keep him away from the San Diego Padres. The 2020 champs found themselves in a surprise division race with the San Francisco Giants, which they still lost, bowed out in the NLCS after prevailing over their rivals thanks in part to a heroic and costly relief appearance by Scherzer.
The Dodgers had been widely expected to re-sign Scherzer, as they have several rotation spots to fill with franchise legend Clayton Kershaw heading to free agency amid injury concerns and last winter’s big signing, Trevor Bauer, on administrative leave due to sexual assault allegations still under investigation by California police and MLB.
A powerful member of the MLB Players Association’s executive subcommittee, Scherzer’s second go at free agency comes as MLB and the union negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, a tense reckoning with the game’s economic state that is likely to result in the sport’s first work stoppage since 1994.
He returns to the market after the expiration of a seven-year, $210 million deal he signed with the Nationals in 2015 that is viewed as perhaps the most successful free agent mega-deal of all time.