As Dec. 1 creeps ever closer, we’re finally seeing some movement around the baseball world. With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire in two days and an owners’ lockout of players looming, a group of prominent free agents is now motivated to get deals down as soon as possible and avoid falling victim to what could be a two-month stretch with zero transactions completed.
And there may be no player more motivated to know where he’s going to be playing in 2022 right now than Max Scherzer, who reportedly plans to sign a new contract in the next 24 hours. Perhaps in an unexpected location that won’t sit too well with Nationals fans: Flushing, N.Y.
The Mets - yes, the Mets - were going all-out Sunday evening in an attempt to sign Scherzer, offering a reported $42 million per year in a deal that could be either for three or even four years.
Nothing was agreed upon as of midnight, and it’s entirely possible Scherzer and agent Scott Boras are using the Mets to try to convince another club (most likely the Dodgers) to increase their offer and swoop in to sign the three-time Cy Young Award winner at the last minute.
But there’s no disputing the Mets’ sincerity in trying to get this done. Nor in the ramifications a deal would have on the Nats, the National League East and the NL as a whole.
As frustrating as this summer’s trade deadline was, most fans could accept that Scherzer (a pending free agent) was going to pitch for another club. And the Dodgers seemed the perfect fit, not to mention less loathsome to the Nationals because they play on the other side of the country.
But the Mets? That might draw even more angst among Nats fans than Bryce Harper’s departure for the Phillies did three years ago. It also would seem to come out of left field, given New York’s struggles on and off the field, failure to reach the playoffs in each of the last five seasons and current lack of a manager.
If new owner Steve Cohen really is offering something along the lines of four years and $168 million, though, how is Scherzer supposed to say no? That contract would pay him $42 million a year even as he turns 41 in July 2025. The Dodgers may love the guy, but do they really love him that much?
The Mets do have one thing going for them right now over a lot of other franchises: Desperation. They’re desperate to make a big splash this winter, desperate to realize their full potential and desperate to play in October for the first time since the 2016 NL wild card game.
And it’s no surprise the few teams that were aggressive over the holiday weekend fall into a similar category. The Mets, Blue Jays and Rangers were the most active teams, the first two having come up a little short of the playoffs this fall, the latter desperately trying to make themselves relevant again after back-to-back last-place finishes in the American League West.
These are franchises that are going for it in 2022, no matter if there’s a lockout or any other wrenches thrown in their direction in the coming months. Others facing far less sense of desperation this winter are taking a cautious approach, in many cases doing nothing so far to address their rosters.
And, yeah, the Nationals sure do seem to fall into that category. Yes, they have some real roster needs, but barring a sudden push in the next 72 hours, it appears they’ll be content to wait to address those areas until after a new CBA is in place.
That leaves the Nats very much on the outside looking in at the moment. Which could make for an uncomfortable couple of days to open this week.
It’s one thing for baseball to be hurtling toward a work stoppage late Wednesday night. It would be quite another for the last big transaction to be completed before such a work stoppage to include Scherzer in royal blue pinstripes with orange trim.