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Mets, Max Scherzer agree to historic three-year, $130 million contract, source says

Max Scherzer of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches

Max Scherzer of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning in Game 5 of the NLDS at Oracle Park on October 14, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Thearon W. Henderson

In a landmark development for the Mets and a history-making one for baseball, superstar pitcher Max Scherzer agreed to a three-year, $130 million contract on Monday, a source said, multibillionaire owner Steve Cohen’s latest effort to spend big to try to get the team back to the playoffs.

The final terms of Scherzer’s deal reportedly include an opt-out clause after the second season and full no-trade powers. He will need to pass a physical before the pact becomes official.

An average annual salary of $43.33 million is by far the largest in major league history. The previous record belonged to the Yankees’ Geritt Cole at an average of $36 million per year, followed by the Angels’ Mike Trout ($35.5 million) in their current deals.

This is the first nine-figure contract the Mets have awarded to a free agent outside their organization since Carlos Beltran in January 2005. It is the fifth-largest deal in franchise history, behind Francisco Lindor ($341 million), David Wright ($138 million), Johan Santana ($137.5 million) and Jacob deGrom (also $137.5 million).

Scherzer, a 37-year-old righthander on the short list for best pitcher of his generation, joins deGrom to give the Mets a pair of aces atop their 2022 rotation. He also serves as an insurance policy if deGrom, 33, misses more time because of injuries next season or opts out of his contract next offseason.

The addition of Scherzer helps bolster a rotation that needed — and perhaps still needs — bolstering. Following the top two are Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, Tylor Megill and David Peterson, each of whom comes with questions heading into 2022. The Mets are likely to add at least one more starter to this bunch.

The Mets’ successful pursuit of Scherzer, the top starting pitcher on the free-agent market, came after they were spurned by others in the past year.

Last offseason, they were close to a three-year, $100 million-or-more agreement with Trevor Bauer, who instead received a similar contract from the Dodgers. Scherzer refused a trade to the Mets at the deadline and also ended up with the Dodgers. This month, Noah Syndergaard took a one-year, $21 million deal with the Angels, citing the Mets’ apparent lack of direction — they had no general manager at the time and still have no manager — as a reason to leave. The Mets tried hard for Steven Matz, but last week he went to the Cardinals for four years and $44 million, infuriating Cohen.

Less than a week later, the Mets landed Scherzer, which may well stand as the signature move of Billy Eppler’s first offseason as general manager.

The major commitment to Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is not without risk. He is at an age when even elite pitchers begin to regress, and he has dealt with minor nagging non-arm injuries in recent seasons. He hasn’t reached 200 innings in a regular season since 2018.

But he has shown no signs of slipping from his typical dominance, posting a career-best 2.46 ERA last season. That included a 1.98 mark in 11 starts after a trade from the Nationals to the Dodgers. He finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting, his eighth top-five finish in nine years.

Scherzer is the highlight of a spending spree that has included outfielder Starling Marte, infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder Mark Canha last week. The contracts of all four players are expected to be made official this week before the expected lockout Thursday upon the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players’ union.

All that brings the Mets’ projected 2022 payroll up to a highest-in-the-majors $266 million, according to Cot’s Basebll Contracts, a website that tracks such statistics. They could be pushing $300 million after satisfying needs in the bullpen, rotation and elsewhere.

If Scherzer starts one of the first three games of the season, his Mets debut will come against the Nationals, the team for which he pitched from 2015 to 2021. His second start also would be against Washington at Nationals Park.

With David Lennon

TAKE HOME PAY

The highest-paid players in baseball history, by average annual value, with signing team:

1. Max Scherzer, Mets, $43,333,333 (2022-24)

2. Gerrit Cole, Yankees, $36M (2020-28)

3. Mike Trout, Angels, $35,541,667 (2019-30)

4(t). Stephen Strasburg, Nationals $35M (2020-26)

4(t). Anthony Rendon, Angels, $35M (2020-26)

6. Francisco Lindor, Mets, $34.1M (2022-31)

7. Trevor Bauer, Dodgers, $34M (2021-23)

8. Justin Verlander, Astros, $33M (2020-21)

9(t). Zack Greinke, D-backs, $32.5M (2016-21) (reduced for deferrals)

9(t). Nolan Arenado, Rockies, $32.5M (2019-26)

Source: Cot’s Baseball Contracts

MEET THE MAX

What you need to know about Max Scherzer:

Age: 37 (born on July 27)

Hometown: Chesterfield, Mo.

College: University of Missouri

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

MLB Experience: 14 seasons

2021 STATS

W-L 15-4

ERA 2.46

WHIP 0.864

CAREER STATS

W-L 190-97

Win Pct. .662

ERA 3.16

WHIP 1.084

Innings 2,536 2⁄3

Strikeouts 3,020*

*Active leader

HONORS

Cy Young Awards 3

All-Star Selections 8

New York Sports