"It was jaw-dropping," Max Scherzer said at the press conference in D.C. last month introducing the 30-year-old right-hander to the nation's capital. He was talking about the 7-year/$210M offer the Washington Nationals made and he agreed to officially on January 21st.
"You just can't even fathom it sometimes," Scherzer continued. "You work so hard to put yourself in this position. For me, like I said, it's all about winning. I don't play this game for money, but yet, at the same time, when you have an offer like that, it just makes you go, 'Wow!'"
Scherzer turned down what was reportedly a $144M offer from the Detroit Tigers who acquired him back in 2009 and watched him blossom into a Cy Young Award-winner during his five seasons in the Motor City.
He put together another dominant one in his contract year in 2014, going (18-5) in 33 starts and posting a 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 63 walks (2.57 BB/9) and 252 Ks (10.29 K/9) in 220 ⅓ IP in a +5.6 fWAR campaign.
Scherzer avoided an injury, and his durability was something Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, who drafted him in his role as the Arizona Diamondbacks' Scouting Director in 2006, cited during the introductory presser as a reason they were comfortable making the long-term offer.
"If I’m not mistaken, he’s never been on the Disabled List in the past five years," Rizzo said.
"He takes the ball whenever he’s given it — he’s a horse. He’s got the makeup and character to take things deep into games, if asked to. For a 30-year-old pitcher, he’s thrown very [few] innings and pitches for a pitcher that’s had the success he’s had at the age that he’s at. I feel like we’ve got a young 30-year-old arm with a lot of mileage left on the tires and a guy that’s going to take us into competitive games for a very long time."
To make sure that the threat of injury in his final year before free agency wasn't a concern, Scherzer, as SI.com's Tom Verducci reported in June, took out an insurance policy that covered, "... lost potential earnings if he is injured prior to hitting the free agent market this winter."
"'This takes the injury risk out of it,'" Scherzer explained, though he did not tell Verducci, "... if the policy covered all or most of the $144 million."
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal got more of the details of the insurance policy out of Scherzer:
New details on insurance policy Scherzer had last season - and why he wasn't worried about injury. Story:... http://t.co/KowwSaWwEA— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 28, 2015
"The policy, Scherzer said, would have provided him with $40 million tax-free if he suffered any type of injury that prevented him from receiving an offer below the Tigers' original $144 million proposal."
[ed. note - "I'm guessing he means, 'resulted in' him receiving an offer below the $144M rather than 'prevented him' now that I re-read that quote."]
The policy covered, Rosenthal reported, "every possible injury," and cost Scherzer $750,000. The assurance that he would, in his words, "'... have enough money for the rest of my life regardless of what was going to happen,'" allowed Scherzer to go out and focus on his work on the mound:
"'Once you took the injury-risk factor out of it, and you can just go play baseball and not have to worry about anything . . . I was set. When you combine that with the fact that I've already made some money in my career, you're talking $50-plus million in the bank, I think I'm going to be fine.'"
Scherzer will make $15M a year for the next 14 years, and for the first seven years, he'll be pitching for a team he said in January he thinks will be competitive in spite of some potentially dramatic roster turnover that could come as soon as next winter.
"I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot," Scherzer said, "so when you look at the near-term and long-term, this is an organization you want to be a part of."