When your team hands out the second largest contract for a pitcher in history, as they did when they signed Max Scherzer to a $210 million deal today, it takes some time to wrap your head around it. Especially when your team already has the best rotation in baseball. And especially especially when what your team desperately needs is more offense.
So, what to make of all this? After consulting Twitter and reading the Internet, here’s my best attempt at figuring it all out.
1) Max Scherzer is Jordan Zimmermann’s replacement
The Nationals knew that Zimmermann only has one more season in Washington. He’s a free agent after this year, and all signs point to him leaving town. Specifically, the two sides being unable to reach a long-term deal before last season, instead settling for a two-year band-aid. So, they signed his replacement a year early to a deal that is likely similar to what ZNN will get on the open market. (And this is to say nothing of the fact that Doug Fister is also a free agent after this season.)
2) Trading Jordan Zimmermann is the ideal scenario
Now that Scherzer has been signed, their best case is to trade Zimmermann and get a bat in return. He’s gone anyway, might as well get something for him. And that sounds great, but that two-year deal he signed is backloaded. The Nats would need to find a trading partner willing to take on the $16.5 million ZNN is owed in 2015 with no guarantee of being able to secure him beyond that.
3) Their ’15 rotation is either great, or really great
So, if they can’t deal Zimmermann, the “downside” is that they have to keep him in their rotation for all of 2015. Which means the Nats basically have four aces — Strasburg, Scherzer, Fister, Zimmermann — and a No. 2 (Gio). Not to mention Roark, who likely becomes the best dang long relief pitcher in baseball. The window for this team to win a World Series won’t be open forever, and if they can’t do it with that rotation, I’m not sure they ever will.
4) About this “deferred money” business
Our friends at Nationals Review explain this better than we ever could, but essentially the Nats are going to pay Scherzer $15 mil/year for 15 years, instead of $30 mil per season for the seven-year length of the contract. This is a good thing, because economics and stuff.
5) So, was it a smart signing?
If we’re allowed to assume two things — that Zimmermann would not have signed a long-term deal, and that Scherzer can maintain something even close to the greatness of his last two seasons for a few more years — then is makes sense. This is a rotation that could win not just a World Series, but multiple Word Series. Now, if the offense could just score more than two runs a game in the playoffs.