When the New York Mets signaled their intention to sell at the 2023 trade deadline, righty Max Scherzer told reporters that he wanted to “have a conversation” with the front office to get a sense of the team’s future and how the 39-year-old might fit into it. He apparently heard enough that, just a few days later, he waived his no-trade clause and approved a deal that sent him to the Texas Rangers.
Now, though, we finally have some insight into what exactly was discussed between Scherzer and Mets GM Billy Eppler — and what New York’s plans are for 2024 and beyond. Scherzer spoke with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic on Monday afternoon, and he painted a picture of a Mets team that seems prepared to take a step back rather than retool and try to contend next year. Per Rosenthal:
“I talked to Billy. I was like, ‘OK, are we reloading for 2024?’ He goes, ‘No, we’re not. Basically our vision now is for 2025-2026, ‘25 at the earliest, more like ‘26. We’re going to be making trades around that.’ I was like, ‘So the team is not going to be pursuing free agents this offseason or assemble a team that can compete for a World Series next year?’ He said, ‘No, we’re not going to be signing the upper-echelon guys. We’re going to be on the smaller deals within free agency. ‘24 is now looking to be more of a kind of transitory year.’”
Given the players the Mets have targeted in deals for Robertson, Scherzer, outfielder Mark Canha and fellow star pitcher Justin Verlander — largely focusing on high-upside Minor Leaguers who are at least a year away — that sort of timeline can’t come as too much of a surprise. What is a bit of a surprise, though, is that Scherzer says Eppler was considering trading not just pending free agents but players with significant team control left, like Pete Alonso and Jose Quintana.
Understandably, that came as a bit of a surprise to a pitcher who signed with New York last year at age 38 looking to make one more run at a World Series title before retirement. (Of course, Scherzer is among the reasons the 2023 Mets underachieved despite a record payroll.) Scherzer told Rosenthal that, if Eppler and owner Steve Cohen had committed to reloading in 2024, he likely wouldn’t have accepted a trade, instead preferring to try and contend in New York.
“If they had said, ‘We’re going to hold on to all the ‘24 pieces,’ that would have been a different story,” Scherzer said. “But they were saying no, we’re going to be moving players that are under contract for 2024 before the deadline. That’s a completely different vision from what everybody had in the clubhouse. All the players had a vision of, we reload for 2024. That was no longer the case.”
After the Robertson deal, Eppler assured the media that the Mets weren’t interested in a fire sale, but rather “a repurposing”. If Scherzer’s account is true, though — and we have no reason to think that it’s not — he and Verlander will hardly be the last big names to go.