Max Scherzer “Expected To Make His Decision” Before Lockout
7:16PM: The Mets’ offer to Scherzer has an average annual value of more than $40MM, according to Martino, but the length of the offer isn’t known. This would represent the largest AAV for any player in baseball history.
6:58PM: The Dodgers “are perceived as the favorite” to sign Scherzer, Heyman tweets. However, the “Mets’ full attention at [the] moment” is directed at Scherzer. If Scherzer does sign elsewhere, New York will likely turn its attention towards Gausman as the backup plan. SNY’s Andy Martino writes that the Mets hope to have either Scherzer or Gausman signed within the next 24 hours.
11:54AM: Max Scherzer is expected to make a decision about where to play next year before the impending lockout, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Heyman lists the Dodgers, Giants, Angels and Mets as some of the teams that are under consideration.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and MLBPA expires at 11:59 pm ET on December 1, with the general expectation being that a lockout and transaction freeze will then be implemented if no new deal is in place at that time. That has led to a flurry of activity in recent weeks, as many teams, agents and players seemingly prefer to get their business done now as opposed to waiting until some undetermined date when the lockout is finished. It would appear that Scherzer is in that camp.
The starting pitching market has easily been the busiest so far this year, as Eduardo Rodriguez, Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Verlander, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Andrew Heaney and Michael Wacha have all signed in the past two weeks, with Corey Kluber also signing today. Kevin Gausman is also reportedly planning on signing in the coming days.
Scherzer’s free agency is a very unique case, given his elite skill level and relatively older age, compared to the other top names on the free agent market. Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray, the only two hurlers ahead of Scherzer on MLBTR’s list of Top 50 Free Agents, are both currently 30 years old, whereas Scherzer turned 37 in July. But given his tremendous track record of success in his career, his prediction was for a much higher salary on an annual basis, $120MM over three years, AAV of $40MM. That would be a new high for AAV across the league, breaking Gerrit Cole’s record of $36MM. Gausman and Ray, on the other hand, were predicted to get to the vicinity of $25MM annually, but each over a longer term than Scherzer.
Scherzer already has an incredible career resume, with 14 seasons of quality work, including eight All-Star appearances, three Cy Young Awards, a World Series championship and various other accolades. In 2021, he logged 179 1/3 innings between the Nationals and Dodgers. His 2.46 ERA was the lowest of his career. His 34.1% strikeout rate and 5.2% walk rate were both much better than league average. In short, he would be a huge upgrade for any team in the league. But if he’s going to cost around $40MM per year, budgetary concerns will make him a better fit on some teams than others.
The Mets have already been throwing lots of money around, as they recently signed Mark Canha, Starling Marte and Eduardo Escobar. That spending spree has pushed their 2022 payroll to $225MM, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That’s already well beyond last year’s opening day payroll of $195MM, which was itself a franchise high, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. To add someone like Scherzer would require pushing their previous boundaries even further.
The Angels also ran a franchise-high payroll on opening day last year, getting up to almost $182MM, per Cot’s. For 2022, they’re currently sitting at $157MM, per Martinez, about $25MM shy of last year. Adding Scherzer would likely involve blowing past that number, as well as changing their previous avoidance of giving out contracts of any kind of length to starting pitchers. As recently explored by MLBTR’s Steve Adams, they haven’t given a starting pitcher a deal longer than one year since Joe Blanton way back in 2012, and even that was just two years.
The Giants have lots of payroll space, but also lots of holes to fill. Cot’s pegs their 2021 opening day number just shy of $150MM, but they’ve been as high as $200MM before, in 2018. They’re currently sitting around $115MM for next year, per Martinez, but still have many areas of need. Their rotation lost four members from 2021, and though they’ve since re-signed Anthony DeSclafani, they still need to replace Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman and Johnny Cueto. (It was reported a week ago that Wood was close to deal to return, though it doesn’t seem to have been finalized yet.) They could also use a right-handed outfielder, having already been connected to Starling Marte and Seiya Suzuki. It seems more likely that they would spread their budget around to multiple arms, but if they want to make a run at a huge name like Scherzer, they have a payroll situation that could make it doable.
As for the Dodgers, whom acquired Scherzer at last year’s trade deadline, their opening day payroll in 2021 was almost $248MM, per Cot’s, easily the highest such number in the league. They’re currently sitting over $205MM for next year, according to Martinez, and could welcome Scherzer back into the fold if they’re willing to spend at similar levels this year.