Player opt-outs have become increasingly popular in MLB these days. It’s been close to a full calendar year since Mets fans heard about Jacob deGrom’s intentions to opt out of his deal at the conclusion of last season. Another New York ace has a decision to make at the end of 2023: Max Scherzer.
When discussing his opt-out publicly with reporters (including SNY’s Andy Martino), he took the anti-deGrom approach. Instead of declaring his intentions, the hurler simply said he isn’t thinking about opting in or out right now. He’s just focused on playing baseball.
Some may be feeling nervous about Mad Max deciding to hit the open market in November. However, he provided some poignant quotes about why that clause was negotiated into his three-year, $130 million deal in the first place.
You have to understand the context of why I negotiated that in, and the context of where we’re at now. 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.
I knew Jake had an out. 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? I got an answer.
Yea, in response to deGrom signing with the Texas Rangers, Cohen, Billy Eppler, and the Mets embarked on the most expensive offseason in franchise history. Instead of just licking their wounds after deGrom’s departure (which would’ve happened during the Wilpon era), they reloaded by signing Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, and Jose Quintana, among others.
When Scherzer signed with the Mets last winter, it was only the second offseason with Cohen in charge. And the 2021 campaign felt like typical LOLMets. It included lots of injuries, a second-half tailspin, and unflattering stories (like Jared Porter, Zack Scott, and the thumbs-down celebration).
The right-hander was intrigued by what Cohen had to say in the negotiation stage. But, as he said, talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. Eppler has provided stability to the front office, and Buck Showalter has brought credibility to the clubhouse. Sure, their 2022 postseason results weren’t great, but they qualified with a 101-win season while experiencing a clear culture shift. It’s been so clear that top free agents have continued to show a willingness to play in Queens.
Scherzer said lots can happen over the course of a six-month regular season, but it sounds like he’s outwardly happy being a Met. We also thought deGrom was happy in Queens, but it was definitely more up in the air.
And while we’re still comparing these two, it’s easy to see the differences in their respective situations with an impending opt-out.
Sure, deGrom signed one of the biggest deals in franchise history in 2019, but the 34-year-old never had a chance to test free agency for that enormous payday. He eventually got it from the Rangers. Scherzer already earned that huge contract with the Washington Nationals by signing a seven-year, $215 million deal ahead of the 2015 season.
He enters 2023 with career earnings of nearly $145 million. With his age-38 campaign on tap, Scherzer knows Father Time will come calling soon. So, it’s important to him to maximize those final chances of winning another World Series title. Unless something drastically changes, he appears confident the window will still be open with the Mets in 2024.
After hearing deGrom clearly state his intentions last March — and Manny Machado doing the same thing recently — this was a refreshing and thoughtful answer from the Mets’ co-ace.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.