Tonight, President Barack Obama will use his second-to-last State of the Union address to ask for more taxes. (The economy is apparently doing very well, so America can tap the brakes on silly, frivolous things like college savings and job creation). Since this is his solution to the nation’s wealth disparity, it certainly helps his case that Washington, D.C. welcomes Max Scherzer this week.
1. It’s expensive: The newest Washington National’s contract totals out at $210 million. (Why, that’s McLean money around these parts!) The next highest known offer was Detroit’s extension offer last spring, reportedly for $144 million over the same seven-year span. A week ago, observers of the game were wondering where Scherzer could expect a massive contract. This week, we were reminded that Washington D.C. is always willing to spend more money.
2. Future generations will foot the bill: Half of Scherzer’s contract is deferred, so the $210 million is actually paid out over seven years. If, after the 2021 season, he decides to sign elsewhere or retires, the Nats will still have to keep sending Scherzer checks. The front office will have to account for the equivalent of a seven year, $105 million contract for a ghost player who isn’t even on the roster. (How embarassing would it be if Scherzer signs with, say, the Mets in 2022 and pitches them past the Nats in the playoffs while still on the Nats’ payroll? The Mets know this pain, since they are still on the hook for another 20 years of Bobby Bonilla payments.)
3. It’s not as lucrative as it sounds thanks to inflation: Scherzer has to be excited, but can’t blow it all on some fancy record player just yet. By deferring half of that money, it’s subject to the effects of inflation. In 2015 dollars, the actual value of Scherzer’s deal is closer to $172 million. That’s still enough to eke out a living, but it’s $30 million on paper that’s heading out the window. (Depending on what the President gets from tonight’s State of the Union wish list, the effects of inflation could be even greater.)
All that said, signing Scherzer is actually a smart deal for the Nationals – if they play their cards right. Local sports pundits are questioning the move because the Nats had one of baseball’s best starting rotations already, and have two pitchers hitting the free agent market next offseason. Why sign Scherzer when they could sign Jordan Zimmermann and/or Doug Fister? Or, why not bolster an offense that went through an 18-inning postseason game and barely threatened to rally?
In the short term, Scherzer gives the Nats an unquestioned front-of-the-rotation starter; more important, it gives the team flexibility for next year’s offseason. Both Fister and Zimmermann figure to turn down qualifying offers to test free agency, meaning the Washington can let them both walk, pick up two early draft picks as compensation, and still have a very good rotation heading into 2016. (They can also trade a pitcher this year if the right opportunity presents itself.)
It may not have helped any of the team’s weaknesses, but the Scherzer deal gives the Nationals the talent and flexibility to maintain their strengths for the next several seasons. That’s a good foundation for improvement.
If they don’t screw it up, that is. But wouldn’t that be typical of Washington, D.C., too?