Max Scherzer doesn’t make the podcast rounds very often, but when he does, it tends to make headlines. Scherzer recently sat down with Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman of the New York Post, where the Mets veteran discussed everything from teammate Jacob deGrom’s free agency to his own experience on the open market, ultimately signing the largest deal on a per-year basis in MLB history.
“It’s definitely a wild time of your life to be a free agent, just the way free agency plays out. Things come out of nowhere and all of a sudden you start talking to teams and you find out you had no idea you were going to like this team,” said Scherzer, who surprised even himself when the Mets emerged as his top choice last offseason. “I didn’t think there was a chance in heck I was going to be a Met. Then I had a conversation with Steve Cohen and Billy [Eppler] and my wife and I looked at each other afterwards like, ‘Whoa, the Mets are really doing something here.’”
After so many years in Washington (where he won a World Series in 2019), Scherzer had never envisioned playing for an NL East rival, until owner Steve Cohen and GM Billy Eppler sold him on the Mets’ vision, using every resource at their disposal to bring winning baseball back to Queens.
“Being on D.C. and playing against the Mets and being in the NL East for so long, you kind of saw some of the problems from the outside. But when [I] actually got to talk to Steve and actually talk to Billy and understand what was going on, what are the changes that are going to be made, this is what we’re doing, these are the guys we’ve got and we’re here to win. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win. We’re changing the culture here. We’re doing absolutely everything we can. We’re going to sign the right guys. We’re going to build a clubhouse,” said Scherzer, who pitched to a dominant 2.29 ERA over 23 starts (145 1/3 innings) for the Mets this past season. “You look at Billy’s history, doing that with Anaheim, when he was there with the Yankees. You kind of start getting a feel for what they were doing. It was the complete opposite of what I thought and it completely changed everything that I was thinking.”
DeGrom’s stoic, almost reclusive nature has made him a tough nut to crack (that could be by design), revealing little amid growing speculation about his Mets future. While it’s hard to envision deGrom in any uniform other than the one he’s worn his entire career, the two-time Cy Young winner hasn’t said much, and when he has, the words out of his mouth have been maddeningly noncommittal. DeGrom can keep the poker face if he thinks the threat of leaving will help him in negotiations but Scherzer, for one, isn’t buying it, insisting the right-hander’s heart is in Queens.
“Of course, he liked it in New York! We had a great team,” said Scherzer, offended by the insinuation deGrom didn’t enjoy his time in the Big Apple. “He’s going to make a decision that’s best for himself and I’ll support him no matter what he decides. For me, I just love pitching with him. It was great. I love pitching with great pitchers. That’s when you really get to learn more about yourself, when you go out and see other guys do things a little bit differently than the way you do it.”
Some have speculated deGrom could eclipse Scherzer’s record $43-million annual salary on his next contract, to which, Scherzer would reply, go right ahead. “For me, the way I look at it is, players as a whole, we help each other. So every time somebody can push the market higher that helps out everybody else,” said Scherzer, who was very active as a union rep during last year’s CBA negotiations. “I want guys to continue to beat where I’m at on the market and continue to push everything higher.”
Great as the Mets’ season was, winning their most games (101) since 1986, it ended in disappointment, bowing out to the Padres in this year’s Wild Card round. Scherzer’s struggles contributed to their early exit, serving up an uncharacteristic four home runs in a Game 1 defeat.
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