The Mets and Max Scherzer were deep in negotiations for a multiyear contract late Sunday night, according to multiple national reports, a move that — if finalized — would pair the three-time Cy Young Award winner with Jacob deGrom as co-aces atop the rotation.
Those talks included an annual salary of at least $40 million, the reports said. The Dodgers, Giants and Angels also have been trying to sign him.
Scherzer, 37, is the top starting pitcher on the free-agent market this offseason. Because he was traded by the Nationals to the Dodgers during the season, he does not have a qualifying offer attached to him and thus would not cost the Mets a draft pick, making the eight-time All-Star and likely future Hall of Famer even more appealing.
The Mets’ pursuit of Scherzer took on greater significance earlier Sunday when Kevin Gausman and Jon Gray found new teams. Gausman reportedly received a five-year, $110 million deal from the Blue Jays and Gray got four years and $54 million from Texas.
After the above trio, other notable free-agent starters include Carlos Rodon, Zack Greinke and Marcus Stroman. American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray also is available, but he would cost the Mets the No. 14 overall draft pick, which they value highly.
The flurry of activity — including a decision from Scherzer expected by the end of Monday — is a result of the expected transaction freeze this week. The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association expires at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Most within the industry anticipate that if they don’t agree on a new contract by then, MLB will enact a lockout as of Thursday. That work stoppage could last until shortly before spring training (if not longer), making the offseason much shorter as far as player moves are concerned.
The Mets are in search of rotation help because of the questions surrounding their other starters. DeGrom missed the entire second half. Carlos Carrasco pitched poorly after missing most of the season because of injury. Taijuan Walker regressed significantly after his All-Star first half. Tylor Megill and David Peterson, the least experienced of this bunch, are mostly unproven. Peterson also missed most of the season after suffering a fractured foot.
Thus, the big-time push for a big-time pitcher in Scherzer. The Mets know him well from his seven seasons with the Nationals, during which he often dominated them. Scherzer has a career 2.68 ERA against the Mets in almost a season’s worth of action (26 games, 161 innings).
Scherzer has finished in the top five in the Cy Young voting eight times in the past nine seasons. The lone exception was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season (3.74 ERA).