NEW YORK -- Late Thursday night, with a trade of David Robertson to the Marlins, the Mets effectively announced to the baseball world that they’re sellers. A night later, pitcher Max Scherzer expressed disappointment at that course of action, saying he intends to speak to high-ranking team officials regarding his own future in advance of Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline.
“I’ve got to have a conversation with the front office … about everything,” Scherzer said. “That’s the most I’m going to say. You have to talk to the brass. You have to understand what they see, what they’re going to do. That’s the best I can tell you.”
Scherzer’s comments came after he delivered seven strong innings in a 5-1 win over the Nationals, shaking off a poor recent start in Boston to lower his ERA to 4.01. He turned 39 years old earlier this week and, by most measures, is having his worst season in more than a decade. But Scherzer is still a surefire future Hall of Famer who has offered flashes of his old self throughout the summer, most notably during a 10-start unbeaten streak from mid-May through early July.
Before signing a record two-year, $86.6 million contract with the Mets prior to last season, Scherzer spoke directly to owner Steve Cohen about his vision. Scherzer came away from that conversation convinced that the Mets would commit significant resources to their player payroll in hopes of becoming a perennial contender. Ultimately, Cohen did exactly that, with Scherzer as his centerpiece.
But when the Mets faltered down the stretch and lost in the National League Wild Card Series, a record offseason spending spree did not result in winning baseball. Instead, the Mets are 49-54 even after taking two straight games from the Nationals.
“We put ourselves in this position,” Scherzer said. “We haven’t played well as a team. I’ve had a hand in that for why we’re in the position that we’re at. Can’t get mad at anybody but yourself, but it stinks.”
The question now turns to Scherzer’s future. He holds a $43.3 million player option on his contract that, given his age and uneven performances, would seem to be a near-lock for him to exercise. Scherzer essentially admitted as much late Friday, saying that unlike when the Nationals traded him to the Dodgers at the 2021 Deadline, “this time around, I’m not going to be a free agent … I have another year here.”
Before exercising that option, he appears to be seeking a commitment that the Mets intend to be competitive in 2024.
Reached by telephone late Friday, Mets general manager Billy Eppler said: “Any conversation that I’ve had with Max, or will continue to have with Max, I want to keep between us.”
If Scherzer comes away from his conversation unconvinced about the Mets’ intentions, it’s unclear how he might respond. Scherzer, who holds a full no-trade clause, could conceivably ask the team to deal him elsewhere, but the Mets would be under no obligation to grant him that wish. Even if they did, Eppler would need to find a trade partner not only willing to offer something of value in return for Scherzer, but also content to pay the pitcher’s $43.3 million option.
Many around baseball believe that Justin Verlander, not Scherzer, has a better chance of being traded given his more robust recent body of work, including a 1.46 ERA over his last six starts. But difficulties exist there, as well. Unlike Scherzer, Verlander still has a guaranteed year and $43.3 million left on his contract, plus a conditional player option for 2025. Further complicating matters is the fact that the Mets would need to replace any prominent player that they trade at the Deadline, assuming they intend to be competitive next season.
Upon dealing Robertson, Eppler described his Trade Deadline strategy as “looking at it on a case-by-case basis, hearing who clubs covet and hearing what their price point is on the players.” Asked specifically if he’s open to trading anyone, Eppler replied: “We’re just listening. I think we can kind of gauge signals from other clubs, and if the signals are strong enough, we have to look for opportunities.”
Whether Scherzer becomes one of those opportunities will depend in part on how the marketplace develops. For now, it appears that he is at least considering the notion of being traded.
“I mean, look where we’re at in the standings,” Scherzer said. “Our record is our record. Obviously, the front office has decisions to make. Steve has decisions to make. We’ve got to understand what the direction of the organization is going to be.”