No, I’m not asking, “Does it mean anything for the Mets?” Because as we all know, everything is meaningless to the Mets. Look for Scherzer to head for an MRI in June and discover that there are dozens of tiny, ambulatory gummy bears living in there. This is the Mets, after all.
The past 24 hours have been a little loopy in baseball free agency, with Texas and Toronto making big splashes, and Scherzer topping it all off this afternoon by reportedly signing a $40+ million per year deal with the Mets for three years. Scherzer’s deal is about the only one where the numbers are eye-popping in a good way. But this is Max Scherzer, multi-Cy Young winner who nearly dragged the Dodgers’ staff racked with injury to yet another World Series. Even turning 37 during last season, he was just about the best pitcher in the game for the second half of the season and certainly after he arrived in Los Angeles. The idea of pairing him and Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation is wet dream-like stuff for Mets fans. Then again, they’d been dreaming of having a pairing like that with deGrom since 2016, and yet it never happened, as Noah Syndergaard’s arm turned to cat food and Zack Wheeler fucked off to Philly just as soon as he became good again. Because it’s the Mets. If they can get Carlos Carrasco anywhere near his previous form, they should be able to at least look the Braves in the eye. Or deGrom will continue to be ouchy, Scherzer’s health problems from October will carry over as he officially gets old, and it’ll be yet another disaster in Queens that greets us all like a warm blanket on the couch on a wintry afternoon.
The more interesting part of all this is trying to figure out what players and teams think the new CBA will do through the contracts signed in the past few days. It had felt like, until the Scherzer signing, that players were taking the best they could get before the next CBA makes it even harder to do that. Or maybe teams wanted what they felt were bargains before they have a sense of what exactly the landscape will be. Maybe it’s both.
Take Kevin Gausman’s $22 million per year on average in Toronto. Gausman slotted in last year right behind Scherzer and Zack Wheeler as one of the NL’s most valuable pitchers. In fact, it looked a lot like Wheeler’s season before he hit free agency. In fact, much better, as Gausman had the better ERA, FIP, and struck out more hitters. Wheeler is even a year older, and had more injury issues than Gausman has had. And yet they sign for the same money essentially (Gausman’s AAV is $22 million, Wheeler’s a touch over $23 million)?
Or Marcus Semien’s deal with the Rangers. $25 million a year is a nice living to be sure, but this is a shortstop, merely placed at second base last year, who’s been an MVP candidate two of the past three seasons. Over the past three seasons, according to fWAR (FanGraphs), no one’s been more valuable than Semien. That includes Mookie Betts, who just signed for north of $30 million per year. It’s better than Carlos Correa, who is seeking more than $30 million per year. Yeah, Semien is older than those two at 31, and maybe teams don’t think he can stick at short for too much longer. But still, it seems like he came up short, if only a touch. And going to the Rangers and their recent history that’s been puke, you’d have to believe that was the best offer out there in order to entice Semien to Dallas.
Staying with the Rangers, Jon Gray signed there for $14 million per year, which had just about everyone on baseball Twitter screaming at their teams, wondering why they couldn’t afford that. Gray is a harder study, given that he has plied his trade in Colorado and numbers always skew. His road splits aren’t exactly impressive (4.65 career ERA, 3.91 FIP), but is a pitcher with stuff that most think is capable of much more. He’s consistently been better than Steven Matz, and yet signed for only $3 million more per year?
What it all means... well, really could be anything, and you definitely come here to hear stinging analysis like that. With a lockout looming, and certainly not much time between whenever it ends and spring training begins, meaning an absolute prison riot of activity, maybe these players just wanted the relief over and to know where exactly they’ll be when baseball starts again. It could be that simple. Maybe they’re anticipating that this lockout will end as all of them tend to do, with the owners being the ones getting most of what they want, squeezing salaries even more. Maybe in six months, or a year, we’ll look back at these deals and marvel that they got that much.
As for the teams themselves, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them cashing in on some player desperation to just get a contract by locking them in now. The Rangers need to massively improve, the Jays have a contender to finish off. The Mets just have to get out of the funnies. And with the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs all sitting out so far, there isn’t quite the push of offers up the scales. It doesn’t feel like this says much about what the owners think will come out of the new CBA. These are just teams acting on their own needs.
What we still haven’t seen is the middle of the market act, and that’s about to get flooded by non-tenders. They are the players who will have to scramble in the short recess between the end of the lockout and the season, and will almost certainly get the short end. And those are the players teams will shy away from signing now, knowing those are the ones who start to crack the earliest during a work stoppage. The fact that barely any have signed from that segment might mean the owners think they need to crack them, giving us some indication of what the perceived resolve of the players is right now.
The stars always get theirs. Teams can’t help themselves, no matter what they cry the rest of the time. And Scherzer got his, but others might have just got inside before the storm just to do so. And the groundhogs we have on offer to see certainly portend to a pretty long winter.