Mets ink 3-time Cy winner Max to 3-year deal

December 1st, 2021

NEW YORK -- With a virtual handshake, the Mets announced themselves not just as major contenders for the upcoming season, but perhaps in perpetuity. Taking the sort of bold stroke they rarely have in recent decades, the Mets on Wednesday officially announced their three-year, $130 million contract with three-time Cy Young Award winner .

“Max is one of the greatest pitchers of this and any generation -- 190 wins, more than 3,000 strikeouts, three Cy Youngs, a World Series ring and he went 15-4 this past season with a 2.46 ERA," said owner Steve Cohen in a news conference to introduce the club's new co-ace. "He is a Hall of Famer who knows how to win, and that’s a great quality to add to the clubhouse, too. Now we get to pair Max with one of the other great generational pitchers, Jacob deGrom. I told you last year I wanted to win, and I talked about sustained winning and winning championships, and I mean it. And I think the Mets today are closer to that than we were then. We are a better team today than we were two weeks ago.”

The deal includes an opt-out after two years. More importantly, it teams Scherzer atop the Mets’ rotation with two-time Cy Young Award winner deGrom, forming one of the most accomplished pitching tandems in Major League history. From a wider lens, it signifies the Mets’ continued push to become one of Major League Baseball’s model franchises, capable of landing any free agent at any time.

“I called Jake after our meeting just to get a sense of what New York was like, how he’s feeling and just get a state of where he’s at, and came away happy with it," Scherzer said. "The dream of pitching with him -- we can do some great things together. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my whole career to have great starting pitchers beside me. I know how powerful that can be when you have guys to feed off of and watch great pitchers.”

Already this offseason, the Mets have handed out $254.5 million in guaranteed contracts, including an MLB-record $43.3 million average annual value for Scherzer, giving the Mets the highest payroll in the Majors by a significant margin. The team has not led baseball in payroll since 1989, when they did so with a $21.3 million Opening Day figure -- or a little less than Scherzer will make before the All-Star break.

Cohen, however, is not after payroll aggrandizement for the sake of spending money. He intends to compete for World Series titles as soon as 2022 and, with Scherzer in house, the Mets have a far better chance to do so than they did a week ago.

Scherzer is coming off a season that saw him go 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA for the Nationals and Dodgers, missing time due to groin and biceps injuries -- as well as Game 6 of the National League Championship Series due to arm fatigue -- but performing at an elite level when healthy. Overall, Scherzer is 190-97 with a 3.16 ERA in his career for the D-backs, Tigers, Nats and Dodgers.

Although he is 37 years old with back and shoulder issues on his recent medical reports, Scherzer has showed only mild signs of slowing. He has won more games with a lower ERA in his 30s than he did in his 20s, while his 2,536 2/3 career innings rank fourth among active pitchers behind only Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and Jon Lester. Adding another 128 2/3 innings in the postseason, Scherzer has compiled a 3.22 October ERA, including a 2.31 mark since 2019. Over that stretch, his teams have won eight of the 10 playoff games in which he’s pitched.

Given that sort of resume, even a diminished Scherzer would help the Mets -- particularly considering the questions surrounding deGrom, Carlos Carrasco and other incumbent starters. There is also the simple matter that a Scherzer acquisition prevents the Mets from having to face him. In 26 career outings against his new team, Scherzer is 14-5 with a 2.68 ERA -- numbers that include a 10-2 record and 2.14 ERA at pitcher-friendly Citi Field.

In many ways, Scherzer was the top starting pitcher available on the free-agent market. The Mets considered acquiring him at the 2021 Trade Deadline, but he preferred a deal to the West Coast, sources said at the time, leading many within the industry to believe the same would be true in free agency. But by all accounts, Mets officials believed they had a real shot at Scherzer as of late Sunday night -- a notion that became more critical when Kevin Gausman, another Mets target, reportedly signed with the Blue Jays on a five-year, $110 million deal.

Monday, the Mets worked out final details with Scherzer’s camp, quickly finalizing a contract that should fuel Cohen’s vision of making the Mets a perennial NL East contender as soon as the coming season. Over the past week, the Mets have agreed to multi-year deals with Scherzer, outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha, and infielder Eduardo Escobar, remaking their roster coming off a third-place finish in the NL East. The moves should bring the Mets’ payroll well above $240 million, launching them above the Dodgers, Yankees and all other free-spending, big-market teams.

Work still remains for the Mets, who could continue to bolster their rotation while also searching for upgrades in the bullpen and perhaps the infield. Even if they do nothing else outside of naming a manager, the Mets will have transformed their roster and likely also their clubhouse culture, given Scherzer’s reputation as one of the game’s most well-respected veterans.

More than that, the Mets have already announced their intentions to do whatever is necessary to win. A disappointing first year of Cohen’s ownership has led to a frenetic first full offseason under his stewardship, with little indication that MLB’s richest owner plans to stop anytime soon.

What’s next after Scherzer may remain a mystery, but it’s obvious that something, for the Mets, will indeed be next.