The signing of Max Scherzer to the Washington Nationals on a seven-year, $210 million deal has resulted in a variety of reactions, from raised eyebrows to genuine shock, around the baseball world. The signing was a whirlwind — I had not even heard a whisper of a rumor until 24 hours before the actual signing, and until he was announced in a Nationals jersey late last week, it still seemed too crazy to be true.

Once the signing was confirmed, the headlines swarmed. Every possible angle of this story was analyzed. While Scherzer certainly bolsters the rotation and perhaps makes it the best in baseball, there are those who denounce the deal. Historically, few seven-year deals have ever worked out in a club’s favor, and other analysts posed concerns about payroll and where this move left a team loaded on pitching but still soft at second base.

Upon further examining the particulars of the signing, however, it becomes clear that the Nationals have managed to set themselves up for both the present and the future given the specifics of the contract. The media reports that the seven-year deal is worth $210 million, which is technically correct. But, other writers have also thrown out $180 million, and some have gone even lower. The lack of certainty in what seemingly should be a simple dollar figure arises from the unique structuring of the contract. According to ESPN, the Nationals have not agreed to simply divide Scherzer’s $180 million salary evenly over his seven years, which would give Scherzer $35 million a year. Instead, the contract has been back-loaded, with parts deferred without interest until 2028.

A date like that promotes a conception of Scherzer being heavy on the books for 14 years, leaving room for a lot of fear mongering. But that fear can be dispelled once the details of the contract are examined. If the dollar is not earning interest, as Scherzer’s contract stipulates, a dollar today is generally worth more than a dollar tomorrow due to inflation, ensuring that the Nationals and their wallet will not suffer from signing Scherzer in the long term. Moreover, the MLB will not be charging the Nationals’ luxury tax based on any interest-related figure, leaving the club with room to maneuver in terms of cap space while also granting one of baseball’s best pitchers deserved salary and job security.

As uncomfortable as it may be to have a pitcher on the roster for big money until after his 37th birthday, the reality is that Scherzer was not realistically going to sign for much more, or much less, time. The beauty of this deal is that it managed that concern while limiting the financial burden on the Nationals.

In terms of the players, signing Scherzer gives the Nationals the opportunity to make adjustments on the roster to make the strongest possible pitching rotation available to them. The choices Washington will have to make in the coming months before the season opener are along the lines of “how good do we want this starting rotation to be?” As it stands, the rotation, according to ESPN statistics, consists of Scherzer, who threw a 3.15 ERA season last year, Zimmermann at 2.66, Stephen Strasburg at 3.14, Doug Fister at 2.41 and left-hander Gio Gonzalez at 3.57, leaving hotshot Tanner Roark and his 2.85 ERA out of the rotation. Regrettable as that may be, these are problems anyone wants.

The Nationals can now preserve one of the most remarkable rotations in recent memory. Each is proven in his own right, and the group is somehow more talented than last season. Furthermore, the Nationals could still work a trade with Zimmermann or Roark to bolster the second base position, currently slated for either Yunel Escobar or Danny Espinosa, or pick up some bullpen talent. Or, they could plan for the future and trade for prospects to help ameliorate the impending free agencies of Desmond, Zimmermann and Strasburg.

Any way you look at it, this deal is a win for the Nationals. The team is as strong as ever, capable of both winning in the present and continuing to do so into the foreseeable future. Changes to the core roster in years past that brought baseball success to the District were productive, as that group proved just how talented they are — this can be seen in the difficulties in signing Desmond and Zimmermann to contracts and the trading of beloved Tyler Clippard. Now, Washington is in a position to deal with those changes with fewer uncertainties. The ownership and management have continually put this club in a position to win and we look forward to seeing if that effort pays dividends.

Matt Raab is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. AROUND THE DISTRICT appears every Tuesday.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: » The Rundown: Sports Stories for Jan. 27 Hoya Paranoia | The Hoya's Sports Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *