Max makes Mets destination for free agents

December 2nd, 2021

NEW YORK -- Over the first year-plus of Steve Cohen's Mets ownership, the team managed to attract commitments from several marquee names throughout baseball. But until last week, the club still found itself absorbing as much criticism for the players and executives they did not land as praise for the ones they did.

Enter and the death of a narrative.

"Whoever had that thought," Cohen said Wednesday during Scherzer's introductory Zoom conference, "I guess they were wrong."

From a competitive standpoint, Scherzer's three-year, $130 million contract gives the Mets instant credibility, considering his three Cy Young Awards, his World Series title and his longstanding reputation as one of the game's foremost leaders and clubhouse personalities. From a wider lens, he perhaps gives his new team an even larger boost, proving that the Mets have become a bona fide destination for free agents.

In addition to Scherzer, the Mets completed deals this week with hitters Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, for a total outlay of $254.5 million. More will come over the next few months, with each new recruiting job seemingly easier than the last. Now that Scherzer and friends are on board, who wouldn't want to join the Mets?

"When I saw those names, I was like, 'OK, we're cooking a little bit now,’” Canha said.

"In my time, in my career, clubhouses can change," added Scherzer. "It only takes a few guys to change it. I've seen it happen many times, different guys I've played with over the years, when they come in, they bring a certain energy, and kind of the whole vibe can change within a clubhouse."

Unlike even Francisco Lindor, who came to the Mets as a talented young player but with uncertainty surrounding some aspects of his game, Scherzer has no questions left to answer. He has played in the biggest markets, on the biggest stages, and thrived. He may be 37 years old, but like Jacob deGrom, Scherzer has shown an ability to improve with age. The right-hander recently began throwing again after "overcooking" his arm during the recent postseason, and he's been so encouraged by how he feels that he said he intends to keep pitching even after his new contract expires at age 40.

And while the Mets are obviously thrilled about all that, they're equally intrigued by what Scherzer can do to repair a team that endured a persistent string of negative news cycles last season. Like Marte, Canha and Escobar, Scherzer comes to the Mets with a strong clubhouse reputation. He's excited about the idea of playing alongside those new teammates -- particularly Escobar, who received a ringing endorsement from their mutual friend Brian Dozier. And he has no qualms about playing in the fishbowl of New York.

"The pressure of this is a privilege, not a problem," Scherzer said. "I really enjoy being where you're expected to win."

If it all works out the way the Mets hope, then Scherzer will not just succeed, but launch the club into consistent success by attracting more players like him in the future. The team is still searching for additional pitching help, in addition to perhaps another bat. Scherzer just put all the possible candidates on notice. Why not join him and deGrom in this rotation, playing for an owner with the deepest pockets in baseball? Why not join an offense that looks a whole lot different than it did two months ago?

"All you can do is put together the best team you can, and it's ultimately up to the players to go out there and perform," Cohen said. "We'll see what happens. We're hopeful. We think we've put together a great club. I'm sure we'll hopefully do some other things to improve it further."