Well, this is a stunner.represents the opposite of inevitable.
Yet this signing might bring the Steve Cohen ownership to an inevitable juncture, a crucial test: How will he deal with a major sunk cost?
Perhaps I’m sounding the alarm for no reason. After all, the 37-year-old Scherzer just finished third in the 2021 National League Cy Young Award vote, finishing up a seven-year, $210 million agreement with the Nationals (who traded him to the Dodgers last July) that will go down as one of the best signings in baseball history.
Then again, this issue speaks less to the player than to the dollars: 130 million of them over three years, obliterating the previous record annual average value of $36 million that Gerrit Cole established with his Yankees deal in December 2019.
Cole signed a nine-year deal (for $324 million) entering his age-29 campaign of 2020, taking him through his age-37 year of 2028. Scherzer will be signed through his age-39 season, 2024.
If Scherzer performs as, let’s say, an ace in 2022 (assuming the labor dispute gets resolved in time), a number three starter in 2023 and a back-of-the-rotation guy in ‘24, then this deal will justify itself. Cohen clearly is willing to pay a considerable premium to make his Mets interesting and relevant, and bully for him. After his first offseason focused more on depth than fireworks, he is using his billions to compile a very compelling and competitive ‘22 ballclub.
For those of us who don’t care how the Mets perform, though, it will be more intriguing if Scherzer falls off a cliff, be it through either injury or underperformance, during the life of this agreement. Would Cohen let that expenditure hold him back from further investments? Every other owner would. It’s a market inefficiency that Cohen, the industry’s richest owner by far,if he so chooses.
The Mets misfired on last year’s one big firework Francisco Lindor, committing $341 million over 10 years starting in ‘22 when the two sides could have taken last season to get to know each other after the shortstop came from small-market Cleveland in a trade. Perhaps Lindor’s offense will slip and his discomfort with New York won’t alleviate and he’ll beat Scherzer in this race to albatross. Given Lindor’s age (28) and how well he performed late last season, though, I think Scherzer (whoduring the ‘21 National League Championship Series) becomes the greater short-term risk.
In any case, these are fun questions for the Mets and their fans to entertain. They emerge when your owner is spending big bucks in the hopes of accomplishing big things. You’ll gladly own the potential worst-case scenario when the upside is so high.
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