As the Mets introduced Max Scherzer, their newest star, on Wednesday, amid the familiar fare of team bosses praising the pitcher and the pitcher saying he was excited to be here and everyone insisting this was all for the fans was a marked scarcity of the usual we’re-going-to-win-it-all hoopla.
Acknowledgment of the World Series goal, of course. Reaffirmation of owner Steve Cohen’s intentions to spend and try, yes. But hype about their chances, not so much — particularly from the man of the hour, who spoke in a measured tone reflective of reality.
"That would be the ultimate dream here is to go down and win the whole thing," Scherzer, a 37-year-old righthander who has won three Cy Young Awards and one World Series, said during a video news conference. "But I also recognize, this takes an absolutely unbelievable effort from now until that time [late October] of everybody playing well and being healthy at the same time to reach that dream because only one team out of 30 gets to do that."
The Mets do like their chances of being that one team more now than they did two weeks ago, when they hired Billy Eppler as general manager, or two months ago, when they missed the playoffs for a fifth season in a row. Signing Scherzer — to a three-year, $130 million contract — to be a co-ace alongside Jacob deGrom is their first real free-agent flex of financial might in the 13 months of Cohen’s time as owner.
Because of his pitching ability as well as his famously intense and competitive demeanor, both of which should help shape the Mets’ culture, the team deemed Scherzer worth it.
"Max is one of the greatest pitchers of this and any generation," Cohen said.
Added Eppler, during his 13th day on the job: "Max was at the top of our list."
Scherzer’s average annual salary of $43.33 million is a major-league record — by a lot, blowing away Gerrit Cole’s $36 million. As a leader of the players’ union, particularly at this time of labor strife, Scherzer was hardly in a position to turn that down, calling the history-making "cool" but not necessarily his goal at the outset.
Cohen arrived at that offer after the baseball operations department made a "calculation" and suggestion on Scherzer’s worth, he said. Then he "added a little bit more" to account for Scherzer’s value to "brand building."
"That’s how I got to the number," Cohen said. "But I wasn’t going to go over that. That was it for me. And lucky enough, we held our ground and we got an agreement."
Underneath the obvious — the money — were several reasons guiding Scherzer’s decision to come to the Mets.
Among them was Cohen saying he will do "whatever it takes" to win, a sentiment not often expressed or acted on by owners, Scherzer said. Then there was pitching with deGrom, with whom he talked during the process, and living with his family in Jupiter, Florida, about 45 minutes from the Mets’ spring-training facility in Port St. Lucie. That will allow him to be with his family throughout camp and see them easily while playing an NL East schedule.
"At this point in my career, you put all those things together, that’s when I said I was going to be a New York Met," Scherzer said.
The Mets were under the impression last season that Scherzer would reject a trade from the Nationals to the Mets, and he ended up with the Dodgers instead. On Wednesday, Scherzer blamed that on the Nats’ preference not to trade him within the division, which he understood.
"But in free agency, it’s a whole different animal," said Scherzer, who noted that he is doing his normal offseason throwing/workout routine after ending last season with arm-fatigue issues. "I was not dictating that I was going to be playing in one city or the next. I was waiting to see which teams were interested in signing me."
The Mets were interested.
"I really relish being in these types of opportunities," he said. "I really enjoy being where you’re expected to win. That’s what we’re here to do, that’s my job, and I love doing it."
Max Scherzer has finished in the top 5 of the Cy Young Award voting in each of the last eight non-COVID shortened seasons:
2013 Detroit 1
2014 Detroit 5
2015 Wash. 5
2016 Wash. 1
2017 Wash. 1
2018 Wash. 2*
2019 Wash. 3*
2021 Wash./LA 3
*Cy Young won by new teammate Jacob deGrom