The unthinkable has happened. Max Scherzer—our guy, the man who won two Cy Young awards with us, who started fateful Game 7 of the World Series after literally being unable to get dressed only days prior, who pitched two no-hitters with us, who took to the mound with a broken nose and black eye—is now a New York Met. Today, on November 29, with only a day left until the lockout begins, Scherzer signed a three-year, $130 million deal with the Mets, with an approximately $43.3 AAV—the highest AAV in baseball history.
I’ll admit, I really didn’t see this coming. As I wrote in my article a few weeks ago detailing possible landing spots for Max, I didn’t think the Mets were serious enough to attract his attention, even with a big check. Obviously, the signings of Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Mark Canha changed things. There’s a lot to unpack with this, more than can be processed in a single day. Now that the ink on the contract is drying, here are some immediate reactions.
Truthfully, there isn’t much “good” about this that comes to mind. The Mets are a division rival, and even I, as a part-time Mets fan by birth, can’t bring myself to feel better or calmer about any of this. We know what a treasure Max is, how much he pushes himself on the mound to be the best he can be. Who can forget how he almost pitched a no-hitter on the day he got his 3,000th strikeout, for example? Or when he screamed at Davey to keep him in the game, despite having already thrown 117 pitches, and subsequently got his fifteenth strikeout of the day? We also know what good he’s done for the organization and for the DC area at large. He brought the Nationals their first championship, and even after he was traded, he and his wife Erica continued their philanthropy in the District through paying pet adoption fees in the city and funding a new baseball field in Ward 8.
If anything, we can take some solace in the fact that the Nationals weren’t left entirely empty-handed. In exchange for Max, as we all know, we received Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz at the trade deadline, two fundamental pieces in our rebuild/retool for 2022 and beyond, as well as OF Donovan Casey and RHP Gerardo Carrillo. The Dodgers got six months of Scherzer (and a year of Trea Turner too, of course, but he didn’t help them much in their postseason run). Now that he’s left LA, the Dodgers have nothing to show for the trade besides the additional year of Turner—no pennant, no championship, no ace locked up. Given that Max almost definitely would have left us in free agency had we kept him up until this point, this is a huge upside, and the Dodgers are the real losers out of the entire ordeal.
Also, reports indicate that Scherzer’s contract has an opt-out provision after two years, so maybe one day we can hope for a reunion…
It’s impossible to sugarcoat how devastating this is. Watching a beloved icon head to a division rival isn’t easy, even if he hasn’t pitched for us in six months, and the whole situation has harrowing echoes of how Harper left in 2018 for the Phillies. For all the Nats fans talking about how this contract could potentially carry Max into his age 40 season, and how he very well could deteriorate as a pitcher as he gets older, that feels far from a given: Max has finished in the top five in Cy Young voting eight times, and he’s had a WAR above 5 in nearly every year since 2013. I, personally, would never bet against Max Scherzer, and I won’t start doing so now just because he’s a Met.
On the bright side, I can’t imagine things getting much worse from here. There were more than a few low points this season that seemed like the bottom—getting swept by the Orioles in July, losing eight players at the trade deadline, and watching Patrick Corbin pitch every fifth day, to name a few. This, definitely, has got to be the bottom. Watching the Mets sign our former ace while the Nats front office remains quiet as a mouse (save for the signing of Luis Avilán to a minor league deal this morning) feels eerie, like we’re on the outside looking in, and it doesn’t look like it’ll get any better before the lockout begins on Wednesday. After a bumpy road led to a beautiful place in 2019, and after fashioning ourselves as contenders for a year and a half after, this is a foreign feeling closer to the pre-2012 years. It’s an uncomfortable change that we’ll need to sit with for the 2022 season, and there’s no way of getting around that.
The debate on how to treat Scherzer now that he’s a division rival has already begun. I’ve seen takes about burning his jersey, booing him every time he visits Nats Park, and otherwise completely shunning him due to today’s decision. Conversely, I’ve also seen takes thanking him for his contributions to DC, declaring that he’ll never get booed, and promising to continue wearing his jersey no matter what.
Max Scherzer will get booed the first time he pitches as a rival in Nats Park, there’s no doubt about that. I will not be participating, but the booing will be loud and it will be inevitable. But I hope that, at the end of the day, we can all recognize we’re booing the jersey rather than the player, and I hope that the booing isn’t as consistent as it remains to this day for Harper. Max didn’t maliciously sign with the Mets to anger Nats fans: he signed because he’s a person, with a family, who wants be financially secure for his children. He’s incredible at his job and deserves to be making money for it, and I can’t blame him for taking the best offer available. When all is said and done, the six-and-a-half years that Max spent as a Nat will more likely than not outweigh his time with the Mets. All the booing in the world can’t change that, and he’ll forever be an indelible part of the Washington Nationals.