I don’t want to be a pessimist and spoil a monumental moment in New York Mets baseball history with the signing of Max Scherzer to a MLB-record three-year, $43.3 million annual contract. Granted, this is about spending money and owner Steve Cohen is not shy to open up his checkbook.
But signing a 37-year old, three-time Cy-Young Award winner who shows some but not many indications of a decline, has changed the complexion of the Mets with their salary structure and saying we are in it to win.
Scherzer almost won a fourth Cy Young with a 15-4 record, and 2.46 ERA in 2021 split with the Nationals and Dodgers. The optimist in me says a healthy Jacob deGrom and Scherzer, back-to-back, is an awesome duo. But they need to stay healthy to provide the potential for the Mets to have a deep postseason run in October.
And the pessimist in me always reflects on so many high profile names that have come to Flushing and failed, either with their production or injury that spoiled their chances for a winning season.
Realize, there is also a lockout looming this week as players and owners head for a bitter clash. That Wednesday, 11:59 PM eastern time deadline accounts for a November record of lucrative free agent signings that has resembled a July baseball trade deadline. The Mets had to make an impact and they did with $254.5 million in guaranteed contracts that includes Scherzer, outfielders Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and infielder Eduardo Escobar.
Scherzer changes the complexion of this Mets team, so similar to the acquisition last offseason of Francisco Lindor and the eventual signing of a 10-year deal for $341 million dollars of Cohen’s money. The complexion of the roster changed with Marte, Canha, and Escobar. However, Lindor failed in his first year in Queens, bringing up again my previous point about the big name player. The Mets shortstop is expected to rebound when the 2022 season eventually begins.
Unprecedented, though, for the Mets is this signing of Max Scherzer and monumental enough to say much bigger when the Wilpons traded for and acquired the contract of Mike Piazza.
When the wheeling and dealing is done, prior to the impending Wednesday lockout, or after, the Mets, with the largest payroll in baseball, will continue to change the complexion of their roster. Salary thresholds and economic structures account to nothing because Steve Cohen has fulfilled a promise and commitment to put a winning team on the field.
And when you have the resources and finances as Cohen has, you can go all out and throw away the risks of guaranteed contracts. Does this not resemble those days when Yankees late owner George Steinbrenner put everything on the table and got what he wanted?
Realizing, also, that buying players does not guarantee a World Series championship, something that has been evident with the Yankees hierarchy and their fans. It happened this season to the San Diego Padres. Favored to win it all, the Padres finished below .500 as a veteran Giants team took the NL West division and won a record 107 games.
It’s obvious as to what is going on here. Steve Cohen is in it to win and Scherzer could be that beginning piece come April. Sources say there are moves in the works regarding another front line pitcher, bullpen reinforcements and possibly adding a potent bat for the lineup.
Scherzer, though, is the prize. Without a manager in place, and that search continues for the Mets, Cohen and new GM Billy Eppler went to work and got what they wanted, eerily similar to that Yankees’ Steinbrenner persistence and technique.
Scherzer is no stranger to Citi Field. The Mets are glad to have him on their side with him being a nemesis on the mound in prior years. Scherzer has a career 14-5 record and 2.68 ERA against the Mets. He’s 10-2 at Citi Field with a 2.14 ERA that also included a no-hitter and a team record 17-strikeouts as a National in 2015. He posted an even 5-WAR in 2021, the last time a pitcher 37 years of age or older did that was in 2013. It was then 40-year old friend Bartolo Colon with the Oakland A’s.
So, the credentials all paved the way for Steve Cohen to go all out on this one, a different and interesting philosophy of a Mets franchise that would tend to stay away from these lucrative contracts that are short term and not in that long term category.
Cohen is not in the business of losing money. True, baseball is a different business from his financial orbit of hedge funding and that first year on the job was a learning process.
But the philosophy is to win and do it now. The Mets are in that process of winning now and have put a different spin on another team across town that usually is the talk of putting that big name on a contract or trading for the impact player.
Scherzer and the other contracts this week are just the beginning. And for Mets fans this is all good, but the results from past failures are always a reminder you can’t buy a championship. However, it is good to know there is a commitment to win here.
The Mets put those resources to good use and bypassed an opportunity to secure a hefty contract for Javier Baez. Instead, they secured Max Scherzer and sent a message to baseball.
Steve Cohen is using those resources in the proper way with free agency or roster changes via trades. He is appeasing the fan base. This owner is keeping his promise.
Hey, deGrom and Scherzer back-to-back in the rotation has a nice tune. Forget about the past and look at this monumental free agent signing in Mets history.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso