The gamble paid off for Max Scherzer. Simply put, the belief in himself that he was worth more than he had been offered, and that the lucrative contract was out there has come true. A year after turning down the Detroit Tigers offer of 6 years and $144 million, Scherzer has signed a 7 year deal worth $210 million with the Washington Nationals. This deal is the 10th largest in baseball history and the second largest ever for a pitcher, trailing only Clayton Kershaw. While the debate can be had of whether the Nationals paid too much for Scherzer, what cannot be denied is Scherzer’s gambled paid off.
Scherzer’s stock could not have risen much higher than after the 2013 season. He went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts against 56 walks (4.29 strikeouts/ walks), 0.970 WHIP, 214 ⅓ innings pitched, elected to the All Star team, finished 12th in the Most Valuable Player voting, and won the Cy Young Award. Coming off by far the best year of his career, Scherzer signed a then record $15.525 million arbitration deal. His future depended on his having another elite season, and Scherzer delivered. In 2014, he went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, 252 strikeouts against 63 walks (4.00 strikeouts/ walks), 1.175 WHIP, 220 ⅓ innings pitched, elected to his second All Star team, and finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting. While not quite as good as 2013, Scherzer showed he has the ability to be and remain an elite pitcher by his performance in 2014.
Prior to his ascension to becoming an elite starting pitcher, Scherzer showed his durability. He has made at least 30 starts and pitched 170 ⅓ innings per season for the last six seasons. Scherzer has average 197 ⅓ innings pitched during this stretch, with the last two seasons surpassing the 210 innings pitched mark. Durability is key if the Nationals are to get the full benefit of signing Scherzer to this long-term deal.
Scherzer’s belief in himself accomplished two things. First, it got him the contract he wanted. Additionally, the record salary arbitration and the deal with the Tigers and his new contract with the Nationals earned Scherzer an additional $81.525 million. Second, Scherzer was able to add at least an additional year to his career by gaining the seventh year of the deal. Assuming he stays healthy, this extra year should put 200 career wins easily within reach for Scherzer.
Players are deserving of the contracts they are offered. The money is beyond comprehension for many people, but I personally will never begrudge a player for taking every dollar they are offered. Major League Baseball is home to the absolute best baseball players in the world. People who are the best at what they do should be, and often are, rewarded with high incomes and other benefits. Baseball is no different. Max Scherzer is an elite pitcher among elite pitchers. His new contract with the Washington Nationals is his reward. Scherzer believed in himself and took a chance that he could recreate his magical 2013 season in 2014. While he may not have improved upon his performance he solidified his position among the best pitchers in the game and now has the contract to prove it.