Max Scherzer is 36 years and five months old as of this writing. In 2019, he had one of the better seasons of his career by some metrics. He had a 2.45 FIP and was worth 6.5 fWAR; he had a 1.03 WHIP, 65 ERA-, and struck out the opposition 35.1 percent of the time. Last season, he experienced what amounts to a regression, although his numbers still would’ve been very good for most other pitchers in baseball. With an ERA- of 82 to go along with a 3.46 FIP, Scherzer was pretty good. Although his numbers have remained fairly steady, he is getting older, which is particularly a problem for a team with a closing window of contention. Despite that, there’s still talk of a Scherzer extension. Should there be?
Presumably, any talks of an extension regarding Scherzer and the Nationals wouldn’t include more years than two.
By then, he’d be coming off an age 38 season; while Scherzer doesn’t appear to show the same rate of depreciation as other players, for a power pitcher on the cusp of 40, his results will likely be diminished. We’ve seen players experience severe regressions over the course of two seasons in the past.
Moreover, by the end of the 2023 season, the Nationals are very likely going to be in a very different position. They’ll be in the throes of replenishing a depleted farm system. I suppose the argument could be made that retaining Scherzer could yield benefit in the future by shipping him out at the deadline. With that said, trading a player with a high salary isn’t always an easy task; and one would think that Scherzer’s salary over the next couple years will be substantial.
Scherzer is scheduled to make over $27 million in 2021 and although his salary likely won’t approach that number at the onset of his next contract, an AAV of north of $20 million is something that we should expect to be the case. In the case of Scherzer, a one year extension might be reasonable, assuming the team can remain competitive after the upcoming season — no easy task. But the front office should avoid making any commitments before the end of this season; they’ll first need to make some accurate and truthful evaluations about the state of the organization after the year, taking into account current team construction, minor league attrition, and 2020 results.
In a year where the Nationals expect to truly be competitive for the World Series, it would make perfect sense to bring Scherzer along in the hope that he’ll be a key component to the team’s success. Any status other than serious World Series contender should bring about the parting of Washington and Scherzer. The only reason for a continued partnership would be, as mentioned, the prospect of flipping Scherzer to a contender at the deadline. If not, Nats fans and the organization need to make the most of their remaining time with Mad Max.