When Washington Nationls and St. Louis native Max Scherzer was testing free agency in the offseason, many in St. Louis were wondering if the hometown Cardinals should put an offer in. Why not? Max is in the prime of his career, has the arsenal of an ace and would be able to put the Birds on the Bat on his chest at last. A alum of The University of Missouri, Columbia, it’d be a homecoming for Mad Max. There was just one thing. He wasn’t needed. I wrote about it then and confirming it now.
Let’s flash forward eight months. The best ERA in baseball belongs to the Cardinals(2.73) and the most quality starts(94) sits in St. Louis as well. This happens without Adam Wainwright for all but four starts and only a half order of lethal lefty Jaime Garcia. It includes an old tough cowboy in John Lackey, a durable innings beast in Lance Lynn, and two white hot phenoms in Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Along the way, Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney have also helped. Where does Max fit into this equation? Where does his seven year, 210 million dollar contract fit in with the Birds?
Scherzer is making 17 million this year and 22 million from 2016-2018. After that, he is scheduled to make 42 million over the next three years(2019-21) but it is being spread out over the next seven years. The Nationals are going to be paying Scherzer for the next 13 seasons, but he isn’t scheduled to throw a pitch after 2021. Does that sound like something John Mozeliak would do?
The answer is no and the reason he didn’t step into that ring was due to the depth and success the Cardinals have established over the past few seasons. It seems like every year the Cardinals are hit with brutal injuries and just bounce back like warriors in a coliseum. That’s because they aren’t built on one insane contract. Mozeliak traded Shelby Miller and didn’t get close to the Scherzer tree because of guys like Wacha and Martinez. When you are growing perfect tomatoes, why pay outside the farm?
To be fair, Scherzer is having a solid season that needs to be appreciated. His fielding independent ERA is 2.75 and he has 219 strikeouts to just 26 walks. He has thrown three complete games and two shutouts. His record, 11-11, is just another signal of how useless the win total can be with a pitcher. He’s earning that 17 million dollars. I’m just glad he is doing it in a Nationals uniform and not a Cardinals one.
Pitching is not what the Cardinals are in need of. Prime hitting, especially in the future with aging bodies like Matt Holliday reaching the final stage of their career, is their need. The money that fans wanted to see put into an arm like Scherzer will go into a long term contract for Jason Heyward. In the end, Mo knows when it comes to what free agents to bring in and which ones to just smile and look at. A talent that has been growing out at 7th street and Spruce for a while now.
While Max Scherzer coming home to pitch for the Cardinals would have been a nice story and generated some waves across baseball, it simply wasn’t a gamble the Cardinals and Mozeliak needed to take.
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