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Making Sense Of The Max Scherzer Deal


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.

Former Managing Editor at UPROXX; former Senior Editor at @SBNation; former ska-zine editor, fan of bad sports teams and good beer.



  1. JDP

    January 19, 2015 at 3:04 PM

    “This is a rotation that could win not just a World Series, but multiple Word Series.”

    Nationals, meet the Mottram jinx.

    • Chris Mottram

      January 19, 2015 at 3:07 PM

      I hedged the jinx by throwing in the bit about the offense.

  2. DemO'sHon

    January 19, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    Still trying to wrap my arms around this deal. After trading away/losing so many bullpen arms, the Nats just lost a good deal of $$ here they could have spent trying to replenish their bullpen. But, maybe that is part of what they will accomplish with a trade …

    • Chris Mottram

      January 19, 2015 at 5:21 PM

      You could argue this deal helps the bullpen, too, but allowing Roark to stay there full time.

      • DemO'sHon

        January 19, 2015 at 8:41 PM

        Do you see him as a bullpen arm tho? Isn’t he a young guy? I don’t profess to know nearly as much about the Nats as the O’s … How long is Roark under team control? Maybe they are more willing to part with Gio instead of J Zimm this season … Just spit balling here …

        • Chris Mottram

          January 20, 2015 at 8:22 AM

          Under team control until 2020, so they could easily move him back into the rotation, especially if Zimmermann and Fister are both gone in 2016.

  3. Illformula

    January 20, 2015 at 12:19 AM

    Where on the Internet did you find someone calling Fister an ace? My advice would be to stay away in the future.

    Good pitcher but not an ace.

    • Chris Mottram

      January 20, 2015 at 8:20 AM

      On many staffs, he would be an ace. His WAR was 4.5 last season, just below Zimmermann and Roark, and a full game above Strasburg. It was also 9th best in the entire league. And his 2.41(!) ERA was the best in the rotation. Not sure what more you’d look for in an ace. He just happens to be on a team full of them.

      • illformula

        January 20, 2015 at 11:53 AM

        I’d agree that he had an ace-like year last season, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into being an ace. For example, his numbers in Detroit were not ace numbers so no one treated his move from there to Washington as such.

  4. Puttz

    January 20, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    I don’t understand signing Max over Znn. Seems like they could have gotten Znn for slighty less. The only explanation is they must know that Znn wasn’t going to resign no matter what.

    I’m not concerned about Span or Fister after this year. Do worry about not having Znn and Desi.

    • Chris Mottram

      January 20, 2015 at 9:48 AM

      Tried to address that in No. 1 … but yeah, from what I gather, seems like they thought a long-term deal with ZNN wasn’t gonna happen.

      • SiPhi

        January 21, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        My opinion is that ZNN wants to be the clear cut ace somewhere and knows as long as Stras is here he won’t have the opportunity to start Game 1 of a postseason series. ZNN seems like a good dude, but anyone would be mad they didn’t get a Game 1 start after the season he had last year.

  5. Puttz

    January 20, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    The other problem is Boras is going to let Stras go to free agency. He’s likely gone after 2016. I don’t think Boras would let him sign today for $30MM a season.

    • DemO'sHon

      January 20, 2015 at 11:57 AM

      Boras let’s all his clients go to free agency

  6. illformula

    January 20, 2015 at 11:54 AM

    I don’t think Boras lets hardly any of his clients sign without tasting the FA market.

    He’s an ass.

    • DemO'sHon

      January 20, 2015 at 11:57 AM

      Pretty much

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