Mike Rizzo and Max Scherzer have history. More than a few speculative articles mentioned that fact before the Washington Nationals' General Manager and their newest starter "shocked" the baseball world by agreeing on a free agent deal that will reportedly pay Scherzer $15 million a year over the next fourteen years.
Scherzer signed the 7-year/$210M deal this afternoon before talking to reporters in the nation's capital.
Rizzo was there on the dais with the 30-year-old right-hander, NL Manager of the Year Matt Williams and Scherzer's agent Scott Boras for today's introductory press conference in Nationals Park.
He was asked when Scherzer, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1st Round of the 2006 Draft while Rizzo was the D-Backs' Scouting Director, first came on his radar as a possibility?
"'06 he was on my radar," Rizzo joked. "That's when I started loving him. We have a grand plan coming into each offseason and there's different routes to get to where you want to be and we had different options and opportunities and the talks, I guess the plan was laid at the beginning of the offseason and came to fruition in the last three, four weeks or so."
Williams said he will be lucky to be able to pencil Scherzer's name in every fifth day as part of what was already one of the Major League's best rotations before this week's one-time Cy Young-winning addition.
Welcome to DC, @Max_Scherzer! I'm excited to catch the best rotation in @MLB! #Nats— Wilson Abrahan Ramos (@WRamosC3) January 21, 2015
"To be able to put any of those names down every fifth day is a privilege for anybody," Williams told reporters.
"But what it does is it just allows us to have a better chance of winning. As Max said, he wants to win. We desperately want to win. Jayson [Werth] is here with us today, he wants to win desperately. And it's important to us."
Scherzer did say he wants to win earlier in the press conference, as Williams said, telling the D.C. press corps and gathered national media why he signed on with the Nats.
"For me it's pretty easy and it's one [reason]: Winning," Scherzer said. "I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot, so when you look at the near-term and long-term, this is an organization you want to be a part of."
Both Rizzo and Williams, who also crossed paths with the right-hander in the D-Backs' organization, talked about the kind of player the Nationals were getting.
Max Scherzer opens up about the perception of Bryce Harper, and his relationship to facial hair, media, and pizza. http://t.co/3RmJWYd3R0— 106.7 The Fan (@1067thefandc) January 21, 2015
"He's everybody's kind of guy," Rizzo said. "He's got great ability. He's got great work ethic. He's a great teammate and he gets after it. He's a winner. We like to think that we attract that type of player and we certainly landed one in Max."
"To give you the idea of the type of competitor Max is," Williams said. "Take you back to Montgomery, Alabama in 2007. He was a young Double-A [Mobile] pitcher and I was his manager. Every minor league starting pitcher has a pitch count. His was 100. He had 97 pitches, I went out to the mound and told he's got three pitches to get this guy out and he was done and he reared back and went 97, 98, 99 to strike him out. So that's the kind of guy that you see up here. He hasn't changed since then and he won't change now. He's a bulldog, we're going to be happy to give him the ball every fifth [day]."
Williams just happened to be filling in for Mobile BayBears manager Brett Butler for the final five weeks of that season after Butler had suffered a "mild stroke."
Rizzo and Scherzer go back even further though, to before the two-time All-Star and 2013 Cy Young winner was drafted.
"I saw Max twice as an amateur and the first time he didn't fare that well," Rizzo said. "But loved the competitiveness, loved the way he attacked hitters and just loved the demeanor on the mound. He was pouring fastballs in to these right-handed hitters. And the stuff was there, that was pretty evident, that he's got power stuff, but what really affected me in a positive light was I saw a guy there that was struggling a little bit, but made no excuses and just got after it. And the second time when I went back to see him it was a 180 and it was a very, very easy game to scout and he was an extremely easy player to take at eleven in the Draft that year."
Nine years later, Rizzo invested in Scherzer again. Last time, the D-Backs gave the 11th overall pick of the '06 Draft a 4-year/$4.3M major league deal.