NEW YORK -- Late Sunday morning, Max Scherzer’s nameplate was still in his locker at Citi Field -- the lone reminder of his relatively brief and complicated tenure with the organization. Over a season and a half in Queens, Scherzer legitimized the Mets while also, at times, standing culpable for their failures.
No matter his legacy, Scherzer is now an ex-Met. The team on Sunday finalized a trade of the three-time Cy Young winner to the Rangers in exchange for infield prospect Luisangel Acuña, striking the most significant deal yet in what many in the industry consider a potentially historic Trade Deadline sell-off. General manager Billy Eppler referred to it more as a repositioning of assets.
Mets get: INF Luisangel Acuña (Rangers' No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline)
Rangers get: RHP Max Scherzer, cash
“I do want to be clear that it’s not a rebuild,” Eppler said. “It’s not a fire sale. It’s not a liquidation. This is just a repurposing of [owner] Steve [Cohen’s] investment in the club, and kind of shifting that investment from the team into the organization.”
To complete the deal, Scherzer waived his full no-trade clause -- a decision he made after talking to Eppler this weekend about the organization’s direction. As part of the agreement, a source said, New York will pay all but $22.5 million of Scherzer’s salary. Due to deferred money on his previous contract, that makes Scherzer the first player in Major League history to earn at least $15 million from three organizations (the Nationals, Mets and Rangers) at the same time.
In effect, the Mets purchased Acuña from Texas for tens of millions of dollars. It’s a strategy they have employed on a lesser scale in previous trades, and one they believe can help them avoid a long-term rebuild.
“We used this opportunity to bring a player into the organization that we’re extremely excited about that’s close to the big leagues -- talent that you can’t access,” Eppler said. “Generally, with clubs that are going to go through a rebuild, you have to endure five, six, seven years of losing. We don’t have the appetite for that. We’re not going to do that. What we want to do is use Steve’s investment and enhance this farm system, and get us to our larger goal.”
The price was essentially giving up on the rest of this season, which Eppler said he’s choosing to do because of the low probability of a 49-55 Mets team making the playoffs. Although Scherzer has struggled this year, most notably allowing home runs at nearly twice his career rate, he is still 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 19 starts. Without Scherzer, the Mets are losing significant reliability.
Before the 2022 season, Scherzer signed a record two-year, $86.6 million contract with the Mets in hopes of winning his second career title. The formula seemed to work that summer, as the Mets won 101 games while Scherzer went 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA. But the team lost the Wild Card Series in three games to the Padres. Scherzer was hit hard in his only appearance of the series, allowing seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1.
After the season, the Mets added Justin Verlander to the rotation with an eye on getting a few steps further in the playoffs, but their strategy did not bear the expected fruit.
Now, with both Scherzer and closer David Robertson gone to other teams, the Mets have signaled to the rest of the league that no one on the roster is off-limits. That means impending free agents Tommy Pham and Mark Canha are near-locks to be moved before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET deadline. Others, such as Verlander and even first baseman Pete Alonso, could potentially move if a rival team meets what Eppler called “high” price points for his players.
“If a guy with a no-trade clause can get traded, then anyone can,” Alonso said. “It's a strange feeling, for sure.”
“We knew anything could be on the table now,” added outfielder Brandon Nimmo. “We weren’t sure how far this might go, but knew these [trades] were possibilities.”
Acuña, who is the younger brother of Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 44 overall prospect in baseball. He is now the Mets’ No. 2 overall prospect on Pipeline’s list. Entering Saturday’s action, Acuña was having his best season in professional baseball, hitting .315 with seven home runs and 51 RBIs for Double-A Frisco. Pipeline currently projects him to hit the big leagues as soon as next season.
“I don’t call it a rebuild," shortstop Francisco Lindor said, "I call it a transition. I’m here for the long term. I’m here to win championships and to be part of an amazing organization. It’s one of those things where you want to win now, but you also need to have stability. From my understanding, that’s what I’m seeing right now.”