Saturday, July 29, 2023

Mets Send Scherzer To Texas, Ending A Brief Hopeful Era

Max Scherzer firing one in to Isiah Kiner-Falefa of the Yankees on June 13. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets continued their fire sale on Saturday night, as they traded one of their aces, Max Scherzer, to the Texas Rangers for top shortstop prospect, Luisangel Acuna.

Scherzer's final start as a Met was Friday night, as he threw seven innings in a 5-1 Mets win over Washington. His record this season is 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA (earned run average), after he went 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA in 2022.

What transpired after the game overshadowed that performance as Scherzer was quite open about how he felt about the Mets trading their closer, David Robertson, to the Miami Marlins on Thursday night.

“I probably have to have a conversation with our front office,” Scherzer said after he won his start on Friday night against Washington. “You’re trading away our closer. A lot of people are going to have a conversation with our front office.”

Mets Manager Buck Showalter was asked about Scherzer’s comments in his pregame press conference on Saturday afternoon, “Max and I talk a lot, I’m sure it was in response to some question, it wasn’t like he stood up and said, ‘I want to say this,’ right? I mean, somebody asks him a question, he’s going to answer it, for the most part, but I’m sure that’s how he feels, and you know, Max has made it very clear that he’s, why he gets up on the morning. He wants to be here, you know, that’s the way he always felt. He enjoys it here, he likes it here, he’s taken it on, and all the responsibilities that come on with it. I mean, you all talk to him everyday and after he pitches, he’s right there so he’s an open book. 

“He’s probably one of the most favorite guys I’ve had. He’s just blatantly honest and frank and loves the banter back and forth, so I’m sure that’s how he feels.”

That last part in which Showalter slipped into the past tense was telling, in that he knew that, in speaking out like he did, Scherzer likely would find his way out of New York. 

Scherzer waived his no-trade clause to execute the trade, and he immediately exercised his option for 2024 (the conclusion of the three-year deal he signed with the Mets), so he will receive $43.3 million next season. The Rangers will pay Scherzer $22.5 million, while the Mets will cover $35 million-plus, according to reports, which covers the remainder of this season and next.

Luisangel Acuna is the brother of Atlanta Braves superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna, Jr., so it's not hard to envision a day they'll be battling each other in a pennant race.

Acuna, 21 years old, was ranked as the second-best prospect in the Rangers system by Baseball America. In 84 games with Double-A Frisco, Acuna hit .315 with seven home runs and 51 RBI, a .377 on-base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .453.

While billed primarily as a shortstop, Acuna also plays second base and center field, according to Baseball Reference, which is significant since current shortstop Francisco Lindor is in the second year of a 10-year, $341 million contract.

Scherzer won 20 regular season games in his nearly two seasons as a Met. What will probably be remembered most, however, is how he lost the opening of the playoffs, Game 1 of the Wild Card round against San Diego, in which he allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.

There is a sadness to this trade, as Scherzer's arrival to the Mets in the offseason ahead of the 2022 season showed this would be a new era under owner Steve Cohen.

Along with the arrival of Manager Buck Showalter, Scherzer set a tone with his laser focus, which rubbed off on his teammates as they won 101 games in the regular season.

The one downside to the 2022 campaign was that Scherzer missed considerable time with injuries, including in September, when they lost many winnable games on their way to losing the National League East to the Atlanta Braves and that forced them into the Wild Card round of the playoffs, in which they were upset by San Diego in the Wild Card round. 

That malaise continued into this season, as the Mets failed to live up to sky-high expectations, brought on by adding Justin Verlander to the rotation and boasting of the richest payroll ever at $377 million. 

The Mets stumbled to a record of 49-54 through Friday, as it has been a season full of fits and starts. One of the toughest moments of the season included Scherzer being ejected on April 19 in a game against the Dodgers in Los Angeles for having sticky stuff on his hands, which resulted in a 10-game suspension. 

With the trades of Robertson and Scherzer, there is no doubt the Mets are "sellers," with the trade deadline still three days away on Tuesday. 

Showalter was asked in his pregame presser if the expanded playoff field, with three Wild Card spots, has made it trickier for teams approaching the trade deadline, and he said, “It’d be a better question for front office people and ownership of teams around the league; I just deal with it from the players’ standpoint. They’re wired, they’re always thinking best case scenario. I think we all know from a competitive nature how quickly things can change, but you do have to make some tough decisions sometimes along the way, and take in everything, and say, ‘you know, you can’t do it on September 1st or 2nd, rather, it’s sometimes you get forced. That’s why a lot of people make good decisions waiting as long as they can, but also certain things happen.

“I think it’s made it harder for front offices and ownership to make decisions because there’s always that carrot, and then, all of a sudden, two or three wild card teams are the last teams standing. Makes it even tougher, but I think every organization is a little different, in where they are, and even in their minor league system, where they are in players and their ability to procure players.

“I try to stay focused on what my job is, and the 26 guys we have here and trying to keep that, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, and this time of year, it’s a challenge. It’s always a challenge, but especially this time of year because you’re always, like I said yesterday, put yourselves in their shoes and try to stop the unknown from being there, and frustrating me sometimes because I don’t know a lot of times the unknown of what is going, how it’s going to transpire. The only thing we can control is when they get through playing the National Anthem.”

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