Washington Nationals: Revisiting the Max Scherzer signing four years later
By Blake Finney
On January 21st, 2015, the Washington Nationals made a franchise-altering signing in Max Scherzer. Four years on, it looks like some fantastic business.
On this day four years ago, the Washington Nationals rocked the baseball world when they signed top free agent Max Scherzer. And the rest, as they say, is history as he right-hander is now seemingly a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post was the first to report the news on January 19th, but the deal wasn’t official until January 21st. He signed a seven-year, $210 million deal that would firmly place the Nationals rotation as the best in baseball at the time.
The signing drew plenty of criticism, with MLB execs voting the signing the worst of that particular offseason. Those same MLB execs also voted for Russell Martin as the best signing, with James Shields and Pablo Sandoval also drawing votes for best signing. Yikes.
But since he signed to play baseball in the nation’s capital, he’s been arguably the best pitcher in baseball in that span. During those four seasons, he’s gone 68-32 posting a 2.71 ERA and 11.6 K/9 while going to the All-Star game every year and taking home two NL Cy Young awards.
He’s already paid off his contract with the Washington Nationals and he still has three years remaining in which he could continue to dominate. When you take a look at FanGraphs’ dollar to WAR calculations, that backs up that sentiment easily.
According to the piece, in 2015, the going rate was $9.6 million per WAR, then in 2016 it jumped to $10.2 million, and in 2017 it was $10.5 million. However, it was written before the 2018 season was complete, so the estimate at that time for 2018 was $11.1 million per WAR.
So then we can compare that to Scherzer’s WAR for each of those seasons to get a rough calculation of how much value he’s provided. During those four seasons, he put up a WAR of 6.4 in 2015, 5.7 in 2016, 6.1 in 2017, and 7.2 in 2018. Now we whip out the calculator to calculate how much dollar value he’s produced.
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Simply multiplying the two value gets us $61.44 million worth of value in 2015, $58.14 million in 2016, $64.05 million in 2017 and $79.92 million in 2017. That adds up to $263.55 million worth of value on the field in his first four seasons with the Nationals, $53.55 million more than his total contract value.
That doesn’t even take into account the great person and community influence he’s been off the field for the Nats and a cult hero he’s become to the fans in his time in Washington. Among all the jersey at Nats Park, you see several jerseys with Scherzer’s name on the back. People come to the ballpark to see the artist that is Max Scherzer at work, in awe of what he has been able to do here.
His spell with the Nationals has allowed him to turn a great career into a Hall of Fame career and is likely to be the first to go into Cooperstown as a Washington National. We’ve previously looked at his candidacy and it’s a narrative that doesn’t get enough traction that he should be looked at in the same way as the likes of Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.
Even if he were to regress significantly in 2019, which there are no signs that he will, he can still be up there with some of the great pitchers of all-time with what he’s done in his career. Why should a few mediocre years take away the amazing seven-year peak that he had between Detroit and Washington where he’s been the best in the game.
The Washington Nationals haven’t often made huge splashes in free agency, but when they have with Jayson Werth and Max Scherzer, they’ve turned out fantastically. So much for the worst free signing of the offseason, huh.