Free-agent season is upon us. Some of the biggest names in baseball are on the market this year, but there are arguably four Big Ones: Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Max Scherzer and Freddie Freeman.
For the next few days, we’ll be taking looks at each of these top four, their top suitors … and ranking ‘em. There are plenty of teams who want the top-tier options, the platinum plan, the Glengarry leads. But who’s most likely to sign them? That’s the goal of the Free Agency Power Rankings: to give you our best guess.
Today, we hit Scherzer. Do you realize that Scherzer put up the best ERA of his career (2.46) in 2021? He was the ultimate deadline prize for the Dodgers, and he’s exactly the pitcher you want atop your rotation heading into the playoffs. He’s Max Scherzer! He’s a Hall of Famer who is somehow still at his peak. But still: He’ll turn 38 right before next year’s Trade Deadline, and we have seen him tire a bit toward the end of the season. But there’s no more immediate, obvious rotation upgrade than Scherzer.
For now, let’s make some Scherzer predictions.
Clearly, there’s a fit here. Scherzer and the Dodgers were an obvious match when they traded for him, and he was magnificent there. He has already won a World Series title, but who wouldn’t want another one, and there’s no better bet in baseball to get one than Los Angeles. The Dodgers like short-term, expensive contracts, for which Scherzer is an ideal candidate. There’s nothing broken about this relationship. Why fix what isn’t broken?
The Giants -- despite moves this week -- still have some notable holes in their rotation, but we know how they fill spots on their roster: With veterans they are able to get the absolute best out of. This could be a chance to right a wrong and get the best pitcher available.
If they’re willing to pay $21 million for one year of Noah Syndergaard, what would they give Scherzer? MLB.com’s Mike Feinsand reports that Mike Trout desperately wants the Angels to go after Scherzer, which makes him like every Angels fan but maybe a little more influential. But the two teams above them on this list won at least 106 games last year. The Angels … didn’t. Scherzer doesn’t have much time left in baseball. Does he want to roll the dice on the Angels?
They’re always a contender, and he’d look fantastic in pinstripes, staring down batters at Yankee Stadium. A Gerrit Cole-Scherzer tandem atop the rotation would be terrifying in the regular season and the playoffs. All told, the Yankees are sort of desperate: You may have read somewhere that they haven’t made a World Series since 2009. If you’re all in, Scherzer is the ultimate all-in move.
A Justin Verlander and Scherzer reunion (they were teammates for five years in Detroit) is sort of irresistible, no?
The Cardinals could clearly use him -- they need a clear anchor for that rotation -- and he has connections to the franchise, from growing up in the area to playing for the University of Missouri to being originally drafted by St. Louis out of Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Mo., in 2003 to the team backing off signing him when it had the chance in 2015. The Cardinals have some money coming off the books, and they could be a sleeper contender. But again: Deals like this seem rather outside their personality.
7) Red Sox
Boston has some money coming off the books itself, and it could use another starter. Red Sox fans would love Scherzer, for what it’s worth, though the team may want to prioritize extensions for the likes of Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts.
8) Blue Jays
No team is more eager to move up from last year’s standings than the Blue Jays, and one handy way to replace a Cy Young Award winner potentially leaving (free-agent lefty Robbie Ray) is to go out and sign another one.
They obviously need some pitchers all of a sudden, and a Jacob deGrom-Scherzer one-two punch would be a delight. But do the Mets have their act together enough right now for Scherzer to want to sign up?
Would they be up for a reunion? Much of this would feel nostalgic: Competitive window-wise, this doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. But if you want to convince Juan Soto you’re committed to winning, this is not a bad way.