The Dodgers acquired Max Scherzer at the trade deadline in July knowing the partnership could last just three months. The future Hall of Famer was an impending free agent. He promised to attract several suitors, even beyond his 37th birthday. He was defying age.
Scherzer then became the most dominant starting pitcher in the majors over the regular season's final two months. His price rose with each outing as he completed another season that warranted Cy Young consideration. In the end, the price became too high.
Scherzer's time with the Dodgers unofficially ended Monday when he agreed to a three-year, $130-million contract with the New York Mets. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and an opt-out after the 2023 season. The contract's $43.3-million average annual value is the highest in Major League Baseball history, smashing Gerrit Cole's $36-million AAV with the New York Yankees.
In the Mets, Scherzer joins a franchise that has sought to cement itself among the elite under Steve Cohen, the wealthiest owner in the majors, with aggressive talent acquisition the past two offseasons.
Scherzer will return to the National League East where he starred for 6 1/2 seasons with the Washington Nationals and report for spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla., minutes from his offseason home. On the field, he'll partner with two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom in Queens for perhaps the best one-two punch in the majors.
The Dodgers were one of four or five teams, including the Angels and San Francisco Giants, in the mix for Scherzer, according to people with knowledge of the situation. But the Dodgers declined to offer Scherzer three guaranteed years. By Sunday evening team officials were pessimistic. Ultimately, the Angels, desperate for more starting pitching, were closer to landing Scherzer than the Dodgers, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The Dodgers are one of the most affluent franchises in the majors. They led the majors in attendance in 2021 for the ninth straight season (not counting the pandemic 2020 campaign). They have a television deal worth $8.35 billion over 25 years. Their 2021 payroll was the highest in the majors, north of $260 million.
Bolstering the starting rotation was among the Dodgers' top priorities once the Atlanta Braves ended their pursuit of back-to-back championships with Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw among their free agents. They started the offseason by signing Andrew Heaney to add backend depth, but are currently lacking a third frontline arm to put alongside Walker Buehler and Julio Urías.
And yet the Dodgers deemed Scherzer's cost too rich. One likely factor: The uncertainty surrounding Trevor Bauer.
The Dodgers signed Bauer in February to a three-year deal worth up to $102 million with opt-outs after the first and second seasons — coincidentally beating out the Mets for his services. He was expected to top the starting rotation for two seasons before trying free agency again.