CINCINNATI – Thirty-seven-year-old pitchers aren’t generally wise investments. They also don’t often rank among the most attractive free agents out there.
But Max Scherzer’s performance this season – one that could very well make him the fifth pitcher in baseball history to win four (or more) Cy Young Awards – is not normal. In an age where every acquisition, free agent or otherwise, is analytically micro-measured for any marginal benefit or potential handicap it might bring, Scherzer must break the models in the front offices all around baseball.
“Good,” Scherzer said at this, sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Great American Ball Park a day after lowering his major league leader’s ERA to 2.08 – a ridiculous 0.78 in nine starts as Dodger. .
“Coming to the park and winning is number 1. It has always been my motivation. It has never been used to prove anyone wrong. But, yeah, I mean – I’m human. You want to beat your projections. Every year.
“I think I’ve done a really good job year after year showing that I can be better than some computers think. I understand why we have computers. They are very good. In the long run, they make sound judgments from a macro perspective. But when are you really trying to describe a player? Hope I am better than my projections. I hope there are more things that I am doing that cannot be quantified that allow me to go out there and be successful.
If there’s a rhyme for Scherzer at this point in his career, it could be his former Detroit teammate Justin Verlander. Shortly after his 36th birthday in the spring of 2019, Verlander signed a two-year, $ 66 million contract extension with the Houston Astros, starting in free agency.
He was worth the investment that season, joining Scherzer as one of seven pitchers to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues. But Verlander pitched just six innings last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery that will put him on the sidelines until 2022 (when he turns 39).
“Free agency, everything works on its own,” Scherzer said, dismissing the topic as premature to discuss. “As long as you go out there and play to win, everything else is sorted out on its own. It guides you in the right direction and to the right team. So for me, I just want to come to the park and win. That’s it.”
The idea that his three months with the Dodgers could serve as a “test drive” for a potential longer engagement isn’t an idea Scherzer has given much weight. On the Dodgers’ side, however, baseball operations president Andrew Friedman called it “added value” by acquiring a player headed for free agency.
“We’ve done some big trades for the guys on expiring contracts and part of the added value of those trades is that you get to know the player better and they get to know us better with the idea than if we want to be aggressive. and continue the relationship so I hope they really enjoyed their time and want to be a part of it, ”Friedman said.
The most obvious example of the Dodgers acquiring a future high-profile free agent mid-season was the 2018 trade for Manny Machado. With shortstop Corey Seager back from injury for the 2019 season, the Dodgers weren’t aggressive in trying to re-sign Machado, who instead went to the San Diego Padres, signing a $ 300 million contract. dollars over 10 years.
Scherzer (who is portrayed by Scott Boras) has only made himself an even more desirable commodity since joining the Dodgers. But there are a number of factors that will complicate this winter for Scherzer and the Dodgers, including the expiration of the collective agreement.
“There are too many variables at play to try to reduce anything,” said Scherzer, who is involved with the MLB players ‘union as a member of the players’ leadership. “So many scenarios can be played out. It burns your brain trying to figure out which one is going to happen. ”
Friedman echoes this sentiment.
“There are just a lot of unknowns,” he said. “All I know is things will be different. In what respect, we do not know at this point.
It’s also unclear how much the Dodgers will pay Trevor Bauer next season – if at all. Amid allegations of sexual assault, Bauer has been on administrative leave for the final three months of the 2021 season, receiving the $ 38 million owed to him by the Dodgers in the first year of a contract with $ 102 million over three years. If he’s suspended for all or part of the 2022 season, the Dodgers’ commitment to him (he is expected to earn $ 32 million next season) could be less. Or they could free him, swallowing all of the $ 64 million left on his contract.
“We’re in the same place as waiting for MLB,” was all Friedman would say about Bauer’s situation. “Once something has been decided, we will be able to discuss it further.”
Scherzer isn’t the only multiple Cy Young winner heading to free agency this winter. Clayton Kershaw is also not signed beyond this season and recently said: “I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen.”
“We’ve talked a lot about Kersh and everything he matters to this organization,” Friedman said. “I think our whole goal at the moment is to do whatever we can to win a championship in 2021. Once our last game is played, we’ll go into the offseason. But we didn’t hesitate to say that Kersh has meant a lot to this organization and hopefully will continue to do so. ”
What would that look like on a spreadsheet? How wise would it be to invest millions and millions of dollars in two pitchers who will turn 38 and 34 in the 2021 season?
“I can’t wait to work on this this offseason,” Friedman said.
Dodgers (LHP Julio Urias, 18-3, 2.99 ERA) at Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela, 4-9, 4.06 ERA), Tuesday, 5:40 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 p.m.