Deeper Dive: Max Scherzer to Mets

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Mets owner Steve Cohen was not happy about losing out on free agent hurler Steven Matz. As it turned out, he had a pretty solid backup plan.

It was first reported on November 29 and officially announced on December 1 that the Mets had signed Max Scherzer to a whopping three-year, $130 million contract. The $43.3 million average annual value of the deal is by far the richest in baseball history.

Giving a 37-year-old pitcher a three-year contract is generally not a smart way to operate. Of course, Scherzer is no ordinary 37-year-old.

This past season, Scherzer posted a 2.46 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 236/36 K/BB ratio over 179 1/3 innings covering 30 starts for the Nationals and Dodgers. He was particularly ridiculous in 11 outings after the Dodgers acquired him via trade with a 1.98 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 89/8 K/BB ratio over 68 1/3 frames. The three-time Cy Young winner had a dominant 2.16 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 23/5 K/BB ratio over 16 2/3 postseason innings, as well.

While he might have benefitted from a .247 BABIP which was easily his lowest in three seasons, Scherzer’s xERA of 2.90 suggests that he mostly earned his excellent numbers. The 94.3 mph velocity on his fastball was right in line with what we’ve seen from him the last few years.

Scherzer did average fewer than six innings per start in 2021. It’s the first time that’s happened over a full season since all the way back in 2012. Was that purely a reflection of him coming off a truncated workload in 2020? Or could it be the new normal with a pitcher in his late 30s? Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. However, while Mad Max might not have any more 220-inning campaigns, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if he reaches 200 frames in his first season in Queens.

Also noteworthy is that Scherzer wasn’t able to make his final postseason start because of a “dead arm” issue. There were no structural concerns, with the right-hander saying that his arm was “overcooked.” Scherzer made an NLDS relief appearance on two days’ rest and then made his lone NLCS start also on two days’ rest, so it’s not surprising that his arm didn’t bounce back well. The Mets obviously didn’t see anything concerning when reviewing his medicals, though. While this is something to keep in the back of your mind, I don’t think it’s terribly concerning.

Scherzer is a flyball pitcher who is going to give up his fair share of home runs regardless of his home venue. He should get a bit of a break in trading in Nationals Park and Dodger Stadium for Citi Field, though. Per Baseball Savant’s Park Factors, Dodger Stadium ranks third for homers over the last three seasons, Nationals Park ranks eighth and Citi Field ranks 13th. In terms of overall Park Factors, Nationals Park comes in at fifth, Dodger Stadium is 14th and Citi Field is 20th.

The Mets’ defense also looks pretty solid on paper and should certainly be much-improved in the outfield, where Starling Marte will take over in center and bump Brandon Nimmo to right. Mark Canha taking over in left for Dominic Smith is also an upgrade. The Mets’ offense was around league-average in 2021 and should be better in 2022, providing Scherzer with adequate run support. Additional upgrades are also possible.

All told, I’m not sure Scherzer signing with the Mets alters his 2022 outlook dramatically one way or the other. If pressed, I’d lean toward a minor positive impact. It’s ultimately going to come down to health and him not showing signs of aging.

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Quick Hits: Jon Heyman of MLB Network hears that the Astros, Mariners and Red Sox have shown interest in Trevor Story. … The A’s have already interviewed Mark Kotsay, Will Venable and Matt Quatraro for their manager opening, per Britt Ghiroli and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Joe Espada, Marcus Jensen and Darren Bush are also expected to receive interviews. … Espada and Quatraro are among the candidates for the Mets’ managing gig, as well, along with Buck Showalter, Don Kelly and Brad Ausmus, who reportedly interviewed Monday. … Lance McCullers (forearm) said Sunday that he expects to resume throwing in a month. … Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal has reported that the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays have been the “most aggressive” in pursuing Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki.