It was inching closer all last night, but it appears to be happening: The New York Mets should soon be signing Max Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million deal, the richest such deal on an average annual value basis in MLB history.
Max Scherzer and the Mets are finalizing $130M, 3-year deal. Minor details to go only.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 29, 2021
While there are details to be worked out and the numbers could change, star right-hander Max Scherzer and the New York Mets are finalizing a deal expected to be in the three-year, $130 million deal range, sources familiar with the situation tell ESPN. @JonHeyman was on the news.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
That’d be a record AAV, and not by a small amount.
Average Annual Value Leaders
1. Max Scherzer, $43.3 million
2. Gerrit Cole, $36 million
t-3. Stephen Strasburg, $35 million
t-3. Anthony Rendon $35 million
5. Francisco Lindor, $34.1 million
6. Trevor Bauer, $34 million
7. Justin Verlander, $33 million
t-8. Zack Greinke, $32.5 million
t-8. Nolan Arenado, $32.5 million
t-10. Miguel Cabrera, $31 million
t-10. David Price, $31 million
t-10th. Clayton Kershaw, $31 million
Sure, the overall commitment ranks down at 60th in MLB history, but the $43 million annual salary is a whopping seven million more than the next highest paid player, Gerritt Cole. And it reportedly pushes their luxury tax payroll up to about $271M for 2022. Good for Scherzer, and what a career he’s had. Long and successful.
Random aside: remember that Scherzer was the other big free agent starter the winter the Cubs signed Jon Lester. Scherzer landed a $210 million deal from the Nationals that offseason, and went on to post 39.7 WAR (best among all pitchers) with a 2.75 ERA (t-3rd) over 200 starts (MLB best) and 1297.1 IP (MLB best) over the next seven years.
He’s also been solid in the postseason (26 games, 128.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, 2019 World Series champ), has won three Cy Young awards, and has tossed two no-hitters and a 20-strikeout game. Scherzer is a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and appears set to finish his career in New York. Or, you know, sign another $100M deal in a few years. Either way.
As for the market implications, it’s a little tough to say. For one, this sort of is the fallout of two other deals that happened last night. Remember, the Mets reportedly had their eyes on Kevin Gausman and Jon Gray (in addition to Scherzer), but Gausman signed with the Blue Jays and Gray signed with the Rangers. So this was kind of connected to that.
One other bit of potential fallout comes via Jon Heyman: With the Dodgers missing out on Scherzer, they may have just freed up the money to retain Corey Seager, who is expected to sign today. And since the Rangers are also trying to land Seager, that could push one of the other free agent shortstops into their laps (yep, they reportedly want to sign another one, in addition to Marcus Semien).
As for the Cubs, they were never going to be in on Scherzer, but here’s a list of the top remaining free agent starting pitchers: Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Rodon, Michael Pineda, Danny Duffy, Alex Wood, and Yusei Kikuchi.
The good news is that’s still a lot of names. The bad news is that Ray is attached to draft pick compensation, Stroman is going to be one of the priciest pitchers out there, Kershaw is widely expected to re-sign with the Dodgers (perhaps especially now (or head to the Rangers)), Rodon had a massive velocity drop at the end of the year that scared the White Sox off from even the qualifying offer, Pineda took three trips to the IL last season (including elbow inflammation and a oblique strain), Duffy managed just 12 starts last season (flexor strain), Wood doesn’t have the sort of fastball the Cubs should be chasing (and he’s expected to re-sign with the Giants), and Kikuchi has a career 4.97 ERA.
That is not to say that list doesn’t include pitchers I’d like to have, but a once very deep market has thinned considerably. That could leave some value for the Cubs, sure, but I’d rather they have their pick of the litter.
There’s still a lot of offseason left, including a TON of talent on the positional side, and the Cubs did grab Wade Miley, but they really need to add some more pitching if they actually plan to try to contend in 2022.