It’s been almost three weeks since Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo stunned the baseball world by signing free agent pitcher Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract. On Friday, a candid Scherzer spoke on Detroit’s WDFN radio about what led to his choice to leave the motor city for the nation’s capital to become the game’s highest paid right-handed pitcher.
“I realize how fortunate I am and how blessed I am to be in this position,” Scherzer told WDFN. “This was never about greed or I need more money per se, but it was about a business decision and trying to maximize what you’re worth. And for me, I was in the position to take full advantage of that, and the Nationals came through and put a contract offer in front of me that ... was jaw-dropping.
“It’s the business part of the game. The business part of the game is ugly. I mean, look at it from the other side. I’ve seen so many of my friends get cut and released and all taken advantage of because at the end of the day, we say it’s the business part of the game. I just took advantage of the business side of the game to benefit me.
“For fans and everybody, it’s a hard concept to see because you can get emotionally attached to your sports teams. But for players, we see and live and breathe the business side of the game because it’s right in front of us all the time. So for players, it is a part of what goes on.”
In the interview, Scherzer said the six-year, $144 million offer from the Tigers last spring was the last of their negotiations. He recalled a conversation with fellow Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello a few seasons back knowing that their time in Detroit would not be long despite being an integral part of a team that was in the middle of a run of four consecutive American League Central titles.
“We sat on the bench and we saw this coming really two years ago,” Scherzer said. “We saw where everybody was at in their contracts. We sat there and realized this team is going to get a major facelift in the next two years. There’s just no way you can keep everybody on board.
“We looked at each other like, ‘Which one of us is going to go?’
“As players, we knew there was going to be roster turnover just because. We knew it was going to happen. It just happened to be both of us.”
The obvious coincidence here is that Scherzer just signed a monumental contract to join a Nationals staff that may have at least two of its pitchers having a similar conversation as he and Porcello. Both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister become free agents at the end of the 2015 season. The popular immediate reaction to the Scherzer signing was that it meant that one or both would be traded quickly. Rizzo has repeatedly said since the signing that it’s his intention to keep this star-studded rotation intact throughout the 2015 season.
We’ll see if Rizzo maintains his position through the spring. No question there’s plenty of interest from teams for both Zimmermann and Fister. It would be hard to part with Zimmermann coming off his 2014 campaign that included a no-hitter and a near-shutout in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Fister was equally as dominant in 2014 with a 16-6 record and a 2.41 ERA. He also outdueled Madison Bumgarner in the National League Division Series to gain the Nats’ only win in the postseason. It’s unlikely that the Nats would sign both Zimmermann and Fister to long-term deals once they hit the market. Also, three-time opening day starter Stephen Strasburg is not far away from free agency with just two years of team control remaining.
It’s a good bet that Rizzo’s phone will continue to ring off the hook throughout the season with teams inquiring on how to land one of these frontline starters.