The Washington Nationals "kicked the tires," in General Manager Mike Rizzo's words, on three of the Detroit Tigers' starters last winter, asking about Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Doug Fister before focusing in on Fister as a trade target.
Two of the three starters are now part of the Nats' starting rotation.
Rizzo acquired Fister in a 3-for-1 deal with the Tigers last December, trading left-handers Robbie Ray and Ian Krol and infielder Steve Lombardozzi to Detroit and this week signed Scherzer to a 7-year/$210M free agent deal.
In an interview with ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan on "The Sports Fix" on Thursday, Rizzo said the talks about Scherzer with the Tigers didn't last long.
"We inquired about Max first and moved to Doug shortly thereafter," he said.
"All their indications were that they wanted to hold on to Max for that season," Rizzo explained. "The discussions didn't take that long and we moved on to trying to see if we could get a Fister deal done."
Scherzer, 30, became a free agent after going (18-5) with a 3.15 ERA, a 2.85 FIP, 63 walks (2.57 BB/9) and 252 Ks (10.29 K/9) in 33 starts and 220 ⅓ IP in his fifth season with the Tigers in 2014, then decided to join Fister and Rizzo, the one-time Arizona D-Backs' Scouting Director who oversaw his selection in the first-round of the 2006 Draft, in the nation's capital.
"After I signed, Fister reached out and sent me a couple text messages," Scherzer told reporters on Wednesday, during his introductory press conference in Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park.
"And I was obviously happy to rejoin him because he's a really good pitcher and there's a lot of things you can learn from him, even myself."
Rizzo said his history with the pitcher and his belief that there was a lot left in the seven-year veteran's arm made him comfortable signing the starter to a long-term deal.
"He's a durable pitcher," Rizzo said.
"If I'm not mistaken," the Nats' GM continued, "never been on the DL in the last five years and takes the ball whenever it's given and he's a horse. He's got the makeup and character to take things deep into games if asked to and for a 30-year-old pitcher has thrown really very little [an] amount of innings and pitches for a pitcher that's had the success that he's had at the age that he [is].
"So we feel that we've got a young, 30-year-old arm with a lot of mileage left on the tires and a guy that is going to take us into competitive games for a very, very long time."
Scherzer too, his agent Scott Boras explained in an MLB Network Radio interview, thinks the Nationals will remain competitive throughout his deal.
And there were other factors that made Washington an attractive destination:
Boras: "I think in a contract, when you're looking at what both sides want and obviously, we're trying to do a fit, and D.C. presented some very unique opportunities for tax planning, and being a federal jurisdiction where the state income tax rolls to where the player resides, and so that opened up an opportunity for a benefit for the club and a benefit for the player, and then it was really about structuring bonuses and transferring of money and deferrals and interest rates and I think for Max, the primary reason was that -- of the clubs that were continually dealing with Max, Washington offered a dynamic where you can win today and you can also win throughout the contract and there's just few clubs you can say that about and that's certainly what drove Max towards the Nats."
"When the Nationals started knocking on the door," Scherzer said, "that was the conversation I had with Scott, saying, 'This is definitely a destination I want to play in. This is a team that, like I said, can win now and can win in the future,' and that's something that when you're signing up for seven years that you want to be a part of.
"Winning cures everything and this is definitely a type of organization that I want to be a part of so I wanted to continue [negotiations] with the Washington Nationals because I believe in the Lerner family and what they're committed to."
Scherzer joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Fister and Gio Gonzalez in the Nats' rotation, assuming, of course, that everyone is healthy, Tanner Roark is the odd man out in the mix, and no one gets dealt before Opening Day.
Rizzo was asked during Thursday's ESPN980 radio appearance if there was any way Scherzer, after getting the deal he did, would not be on the mound in Nationals Park on April 6th in the season opener against the New York Mets.
"Get Matt Williams on the phone to make that call," Rizzo joked.
"We're not going to determine our Opening Day starter by the amount that's on each player's paycheck," he said.
"The best player is going to start Game 1 and that's how I look at it and I'm sure Matt feels the same way. If you ask Max Scherzer, he's going to be the Opening Day starter. If you ask Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, 'Who's going to be the Opening Day starter?' I think they would say themselves. So, let's get after it and see who emerges Opening Day.
"The good thing is, our Opening Day starter will be our Opening Day starter and Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 and 5, you're still going to have a hell of a time scoring runs off these guys."