Max Scherzer’s three-year deal with the Mets is now one-third of the way complete and will afford him the ability to opt out at the end of the upcoming season. Andy Martino of SNY asked Scherzer about that forthcoming choice and the pitcher was fairly noncommittal about it, complimenting the direction of the organization but also acknowledging the business aspect of things.
“You have to understand the context of why I negotiated that in, and the context of where we’re at now,” Scherzer said, before elaborating that he didn’t know what to expect from the club if Jacob deGrom triggered his own opt-out at the end of 2022. “It was, if Jake opts out, you didn’t know what was going to happen. You didn’t know where the Mets would be as an organization. A big draw for me to come to New York was to get the chance to pitch with him, and here he has an opt out in year one. If he did take it and go somewhere else, what is the organization going to do?” After a chuckle, he said, “I got an answer.” Of course, he now knows that owner Steve Cohen was willing to spend lavishly on free agents, ramping the club’s payroll to the top of the league in order to field a competitive team for 2023.
That response from Scherzer stands in contrast to that of deGrom, who was quite clear at this time last year that his plan was to trigger his opt-out. It’s been a similar story lately with Padres third baseman Manny Machado, who’s openly declared his intention to opt out of his deal this fall. The fact that Scherzer isn’t quite so emphatic is perhaps somewhat hopeful for Mets fans, but it could also come down to a business decision, something Scherzer acknowledged as well. “If it becomes a business situation, we will cross that bridge at a different time,” he added. “At the end of the year, that will get taken care of … I’m not thinking about it. Obviously, you go through six months of the baseball season, anything can change. So it’s not even worth it to comment on whether I’m going to use it or not.”
If Scherzer has another typical ace season, he would be facing an interesting decision from a business perspective. He will turn 39 years old in July and be deciding whether or not to leave $43.33MM on the table and become a free agent again. That’s a lot of money to turn down for a player that age, but his now-teammate Justin Verlander secured himself a two-year, $86.66MM guarantee going into his age-40 season, the same average annual value. With that in mind, Scherzer might actually leave more money on the table by not triggering his opt-out. If he were to decide to depart, the Mets would be losing two members of its current rotation, as Carlos Carrasco is in the final year of his contract.
Some other notes from around the National League East…
- Braves right-hander Michael Soroka is dealing with a sore hamstring that will prevent him from taking the mound for about a week and from appearing in spring games for a few weeks. “It’s a kick in the groin,” Soroka said to David O’Brien of The Athletic about the setback. “Pretty frustrating, especially given the early offseason for me, just to be able to get ready for this spring training. Then coming down with that was not fun. But that’s how it goes, and we’ll be moving forward here pretty shortly.” Soroka has been significantly impeded by injuries in recent years, with his 2020 cut short after three starts due to a torn right Achilles. The recovery has been quite arduous, involving three surgeries as he missed the past two seasons entirely. This latest issue doesn’t seem to be huge, but it’s understandably frustrating that there’s yet another hurdle to clear. In 2019, Soroka made 29 starts with a 2.68 ERA over 174 2/3 innings. He figured to compete with Ian Anderson for the club’s fifth starter spot this year but he might have to play a bit of catch-up whenever he’s healthy. He does still have an option year remaining, should he need more time in the minors to get stretched out after this delay.
- The Phillies informed reporters, including Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, that right-hander Noah Song has been discharged from the Navy and is expected to be in camp tomorrow. (EDIT: The club later clarified Song has not been discharged, but was transferred from active duty to selective reserves, which allows him to play baseball. Twitter link from Matt Gelb of The Athletic.) Song, 26 in May, was drafted by the Red Sox in 2019 but his baseball career was put on hold when the Department of Defense ordered the United States Naval Academy graduate to report to flight school. He was left unprotected in the most recent Rule 5 draft and was selected by the Phillies, whose president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was with the Red Sox at the time Song was first drafted. Some considered him a first-round talent back then, though he lingered until the fourth round due to concerns around that military commitment. This will now be an interesting and unusual experiment, as Song still hasn’t pitched professionally since a stint at Low-A in 2019. He was quite good at that time, posting a 1.06 ERA over seven starts but will now be jumping straight to the majors. As a Rule 5 draftee, he will have to stick on the active roster all season or put on waivers and then offered back to the Sox if he clears. The Phils could also pursue trades, though any acquiring team would face the same roster restrictions as the Phils themselves currently face. Song is currently on the military list and isn’t taking up a spot on the 40-man roster, with Gelb relaying that he will have to be added by Opening Day.
- Sticking with the Phillies, they will be navigating an open designated hitter slot until Bryce Harper returns from Tommy John surgery. The most recent estimate on that timeline has Harper returning around the All-Star break in July, giving the club a span of over three months to navigate. It seems the plan is to not have any single player entrenched in the spot and spread those opportunities around. “At this point, I think it’s a rotation,” manager Rob Thomson tells Gelb. “Getting people off their feet. Giving them a half day, so to speak.” In order to shuffle different players through there, positional versatility will be key. It was previously reported that infielder Edmundo Sosa will be getting some work in center field in order to increase his chances of getting playing time. Thomson also highlighted Josh Harrison as someone who could also see extensive action, given his ability to play all multiple positions. He’s played every position except catcher in his career, though he’s spent more time at second and third base than anywhere else. Thomson also mentioned the bat of Darick Hall, who hit nine home runs in his first 42 major league games last year. He’s been almost exclusively a first baseman in his professional career but the club is considering getting him some outfield work to help his bat into the lineup. “If he swings the bat the way he did last year,” Thomson said, “it’s going to be tough to keep him off the club.”