The New York Mets made another free-agent splash on Monday, reaching an agreement with right-hander Max Scherzer that will pay him $130 million over three years. Scherzer's $43.3 million Average Annual Value exceeds Major League Baseball's previous record, which belonged to New York Yankees righty Gerrit Cole.
Scherzer becomes the fourth and most notable addition the Mets made since Thanksgiving, joining infielder Eduardo Escobar, utilityman Mark Canha, and outfielder Starling Marte. Those three had inked deals worth more than $120 million combined; factor in Scherzer, and the Mets will have handed out more than $250 million in commitments ahead of the forthcoming lockout.
The year-by-year breakdowns of each deal haven't yet been publicized. Even so, it's reasonable to assume the Mets will head into the work stoppage with the highest payroll in Major League Baseball. The Mets were roughly $55 million behind the Yankees for that title prior to their signings, per Spotrac. If Scherzer alone makes $43 million next season, that puts the Mets most of the way there. Now, there's a chance the Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers make a big signing of their own between now and Wednesday, displacing the Mets; we can only operate off what we know, though.
At minimum, the Mets seem destined to enter next season with a payroll exceeding $200 million for the first time in franchise history. That comes just a year after the Mets entered the 2021 season with a $195 million payroll, marking the first time they had eclipsed so much as $160 million. Those are fitting developments since they both come in the first two years under the watch of billionaire owner Steve Cohen.
When Cohen took over the franchise last winter, the hope was that he would apply his financial might (he's estimated to be the league's richest owner) to allow the Mets to operate like a large-market behemoth. Cohen's tenure has indeed seen the Mets add financial commitments -- be it to the four players listed above, or last offseason when they traded for Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor (who they later extended to the tune of $341 million) and signed free-agent catcher James McCann and starter Marcus Stroman. (Technically Stroman accepted the qualifying offer, but it counts as a signing all the same.)
Unfortunately, Cohen's tenure hasn't been all sunshine and Mike Campbell solos. The Mets have endured near-constant turbulence over the past year-plus as it relates to their front office, and their off-the-field issues include the departure of two general managers, a lengthy front-office search and a managerial position that is still unfilled.
That's a lot of organizational disarray for a single franchise to endure over a relatively short period of time. And it doesn't touch on any on-the-field issues the Mets have suffered through; their botching of the Kumar Rocker draft pick; or the drama caused by Cohen's Twitter account. It also doesn't touch on how the Mets finished in third in the National League East with a 77-85 record despite spending 114 days in first, including as late in the season as Aug. 13.
Still, the Mets are indeed spending Cohen's money, and they should have a better roster heading into next season as a result. Winning is often said to be the best deodorant; it's quickly becoming a necessary one for a franchise that, even with new ownership and management, can't always seem to stay out of its own way.