Age on Opening Day 2016: 31
How acquired: Free agent, Jan. 2015
MLB service time: 7 years, 79 days
2015 salary+bonuses: $17,142,857 million
Contract status: Signed for $15 million in 2016, $15 million in 2017, $15 million in 2018, $35 million in 2019, $35 million in 2020, $35 million in 2021. (Salaries from 2019-21 will be deferred, with Scherzer paid $15 million per year from 2022-28, but he will receive $15 million signing bonuses each year from 2019-22.)
2015 stats: 33 GS, 228.2 IP, 176 H, 74 R, 71 ER, 27 HR, 34 BB, 276 K, 0.918 WHIP, 14-12, 2.79 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 7.1 WAR
Quotable: "I do think I was a better pitcher in 2015 than I was in '14. I feel like I'm able to do more things with the baseball, sequence guys different. I just feel like all my pitches are better. But I still have room for improvement. I gave up a bunch of home runs there in the second half, and that's something I've got to improve upon in 2016. So I definitely have some things to work on myself. And that's what's exciting about baseball. You're always getting better. You're always finding new ways to do stuff. And that's what's exciting for next year." — Max Scherzer
2015 analysis: The Nationals stunned everyone by signing Scherzer to a record $210 million deal in late January, adding a Cy Young Award winner to what already looked like a complete and dominant rotation. And that only added a tremendous amount of pressure on the right-hander to live up to that contract and prove his addition to this rotation actually was necessary.
Well, Scherzer lived up to it in his first year in Washington. He became only the sixth pitcher in history to throw two no-hitters in the same season. And when you throw in his 1-hit, 16-strikeout shutout of the Brewers, he's the first pitcher in history to earn a "Game Score" of at least 97 in three separate, 9-inning starts. He established a new club record with 276 strikeouts, and he joined Pedro Martinez (2000) and Curt Schilling (2002) as the only pitchers ever to strike out that many batters in a season while issuing 34 or fewer walks.
That said, Scherzer also endured through a significant late-summer slump. Over a stretch of nine starts, he posted a 5.54 ERA, serving up 14 homers in only 52 innings. It's a testament to his near-perfection the rest of the season that his final numbers remained so impressive in spite of that down period.
2016 outlook: It's safe to say Scherzer has firmly established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Over the last four seasons, he ranks ninth in the majors in ERA (3.12), fifth in WHIP (1.076), seventh in innings (851), first in wins (69) and second in strikeouts (999).
How long can he sustain that? There lies the $210 million question. It's perfect fair to expect Scherzer to put together another elite season with an ERA in the high-2.00s or low-3.00s, more than 200 strikeouts and more than 200 innings. But he's 31 years old now, and so there will always be concerns about how his body and his arm hold up as he ages.
This much we do know: Scherzer is a perfectionist, as evidenced by the above quote (which came minutes after his second no-hitter). He is as studious a pitcher as there is in the game today, always analyzing his performance and thinking of ways he can improve. If there's anybody out there right now who has the ability to adjust as he matures, Scherzer is high on the list.