Max Scherzer speaks about his Mets opt-out

Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer / Amir Norman, SNY

PORT ST. LUCIE -- When Jacob deGrom reported to Mets spring training in 2022, he announced his definite intention to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract at the end of the season.

When Manny Machado arrived at Padres camp last week, he did the same.

Max Scherzer has an opt-out in his three-year, $130 million contract after this season -- and he is taking an entirely different rhetorical approach.

In his first public comments about the upcoming decision, the 38-year-old Scherzer told SNY that the Mets have answered many of the initial questions he had about staying with the team for three years.

“You have to understand the context of why I negotiated that in, and the context of where we’re at now,” Scherzer said.

“I wanted to pursue a championship in that third year. And that's where an opt out, to me, made sense. But obviously, Steve [Cohen] has demonstrated that we're going to be trying to win the World Series. We're gonna do whatever it takes to win.

“But when I’m stepping in, I’ve gotta have that insurance, because talk is cheap, right? You’ve got to see the proof in the pudding, and we have now seen what Steve has done.”

Scherzer noted that he was particularly interested to see how, in his second year, the Mets would replace deGrom if need be.

“I knew Jake had an out,” Scherzer said. “It was, if Jake opts out, you didn’t know what was going to happen. You didn't know where the Mets would be as an organization. A big draw for me to come to New York was to get the chance to pitch with him, and here he has an opt out in year one. If he did take it and go somewhere else, what is the organization going to do?”

Scherzer stopped to chuckle.

“I got an answer,” he said.

He sure did. That answer was Justin Verlander, who Cohen signed to a two-year, $86.6 million contract in December after losing deGrom to Texas.

Soon after, the Mets added Jose QuintanaKodai Senga, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino. The team also retained Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo on lucrative deals, and agreed to a contract extension with Jeff McNeil.

The Verlander signing alone allowed Scherzer to feel much more comfortable about a potential third year as a Met. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner was the best imaginable rotation replacement for the less durable, less accomplished deGrom.

But what if Scherzer has a typical season in 2023, which would position him for another multi-year deal? Wouldn’t his past MLBPA leadership lead him to try to set yet another bar to help future players?

“If it becomes a business situation, we will cross that bridge at a different time,” Scherzer said.

“At the end of the year, that will get taken care of … I'm not thinking about it. Obviously, you go through six months of the baseball season, anything can change. So it's not even worth it to comment on whether I’m going to use it or not. I'm not even thinking about it because when I negotiated it in, the reasoning for it was that I wouldn't be stuck in an organization that wasn't moving in the right direction.”

The motivation, then, for Scherzer’s decision to ask for the opt-out was competitive, not financial.

“If we get into a situation in November, where things have changed …” Scherzer said, before trailing off. “I’m not even thinking about opting out or opting in. I’m just thinking about playing baseball.”

Quite a different answer than deGrom’s from last year. And a terrific start to this process for a team that has already benefited from Scherzer’s intensity, leadership and culture-changing professionalism.