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How much will Max Scherzer's next contract be affected by Justin Verlander's and Clayton Kershaw's?

How much will Max Scherzer's next contract be affected by Justin Verlander's and Clayton Kershaw's?

When the Nationals inked Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million deal ahead of the 2015 season, an ESPN poll of baseball executives voted it the worst free agent signing of the winter.

“One of the execs quoted earlier called this one ‘a Bobby Bonilla joke waiting to happen.’ With all due respect to Bonilla, who will be raking in nearly $1.2 million a year from the Mets until he's 72 years old, Scherzer still has him beat. He'll get $15 million a year -- seriously, $15 million -- through the year 2028.”

Five seasons into that deal, it now looks like one of the greatest free agent signings in MLB history. The Nationals have enjoyed two Cy Young-winning seasons out of Scherzer. And in the three seasons he didn’t win a Cy Young, he threw a pair of no-hitters (2015), struck out 300 batters (2018) and put together a playoff run in which he went 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA and helped win a World Series (2019).

Meanwhile, the New York Mets are still paying Bonilla for a 60-game stint in 1999 that saw him hit .160 with four home runs. On Wednesday, that yearly payment of $1,193,248 went through, just as it will every July 1 until 2035.

Scherzer has proved that he’s no Bonilla, with the attention now directed toward his next contract. The right-hander will be a free agent after the 2021 season, giving the Nationals just over 15 months to use their exclusive negotiating window before Scherzer hits the open market at 37 years old. In February, Scherzer indicated that the two sides had yet to begin talking about his future in D.C.

“It’s really [for] the team to come to you to drive those conversations,” Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas. “For me, I’ll cross that bridge when a team wants to pick up the phone.”

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MLB Network Radio analyst Steve Phillips joined Tuesday’s episode of NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast to discuss what Scherzer’s next deal might look like. He compared the situation to the ones that other recent teams have faced with their aging starters headed to Cooperstown.

“I think they should do like the Astros did with Justin Verlander or like what the Dodgers did with Clayton Kershaw,” Phillips said. “You do a two-year deal or a three-year deal and sign him up, lock him up. If you want to wait until the end of the year, this year, see how health-wise he is going into the next season, and if you can sign him to a two-year extension—I’d rather do that than three—but I would absolutely go down that road with Scherzer.”

The Houston Astros signed Verlander to a two-year, $66 million extension in May 2019, when he was set to be a 37-year-old free agent after the season. When Kershaw faced the decision of whether to opt out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2018 season, he instead signed an extension for three years and $93 million. Kershaw was 30 years old at the time of the deal.

Up until last season, Scherzer was one of the league premiere workhorse pitchers. He made at least 30 starts every year from 2009 through 2018, eclipsing 200 innings each season from 2013 on. However, injuries finally struck in 2019. He made two trips to the injured list with back and rhomboid strains before neck spasms forced him to miss Game 5 of the World Series—only for him to take a cortisone shot and return to the mound for Game 7.

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Scherzer maintained both at the Nationals’ annual WinterFest event in January and throughout spring training that he was completely healthy and ready for the 2020 season. Even though he pitched deep into October, the extended layoff caused by the coronavirus pandemic should ensure Scherzer is just as well-rested as any other pitcher once the 60-game campaign begins July 23-24.

The Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year, $245 million deal this offseason and are only one year into the six-year, $140 million contract they signed with Patrick Corbin, so they are assured that at least two of their aces will still be in D.C. beyond 2021. As for Scherzer, their willingness to extended him will depend on how comfortable they feel about his health moving forward.

“You know he’s gonna work hard to stay healthy and prepared,” Phillips said. “You know he cares, you know he’s a great teammate, you know he can pitch in your market, you know he’s competitive and he’ll do everything he can to be on the field and give you the most. Health-wise, you don’t know. But you know he’s going to give you 100 percent of whatever percentage he has available to him every single time he takes the mound.”

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Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman opts out of remainder of 2020 MLB season

Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman opts out of remainder of 2020 MLB season

Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 Major League Baseball season. He took to Twitter to share his statement. 

Stroman hasn't pitched a game yet this season due to a strained calf he suffered in camp. The right-handed pitcher cited family concerns with coronavirus. 

The Mets traded two minor league pitchers for Stroman's services last July. In return, New York got 11 starts out of him as he heads to be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason. Though it's possible Stroman's time as a Met is now finished, there's still a chance the Mets can extend his deal with a qualifying offer this winter. 

One more glance at Stroman's Twitter statement, however, and it's easy to see that he made sure not to mince words in his conclusion as he's looking forward to returning to "baseball" next season, not the Mets. 

Either way, it's a tough blow for a Mets organization that surprisingly swooped in for Stroman last summer in the first place. 

Although Stroman would have been out on the injured reserve list anyways for the Mets-Nationals three-game series set for tonight, Washington fans will surely be relieved the Nats won't have to hit against the talented pitcher. 

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Nationals are off to season’s most dangerous spot: the road

Nationals are off to season’s most dangerous spot: the road

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals ventured to their chartered train Sunday for a first: They were leaving Nationals Park to play a regular-season game elsewhere in 2020. This is a new challenge in a year filled with randomization.

The road is a bedeviling place in professional sports no matter the climate. Favorite places of all kinds -- restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues -- pull athletes from their hotel into the city streets. It’s standard. Among the running jokes in the NBA is players coming down with the South Beach Flu. Go to Miami the night before a game, play poorly the next, perhaps you caught it while out until 3 a.m.

For Major League Baseball in 2020, traveling has become the greatest barrier to the season’s completion. Organizations are petrified of an outbreak prompted by one person venturing into the night while on the road. Or even in the morning when visiting a cafe for breakfast.

The Nationals will first tangle with road protocols -- set both internally and by MLB -- this week in New York. A four-game series with the Mets will test their ability to sit still. Staying in the hotel is job one. A special guard was even considered in order to make it happen.

“I’m going to put [Mike] Rizzo in the lobby,” Davey Martinez said with a laugh.

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That, presumably, would be an effective deterrent to anyone who stepped out of the elevator, then into the lobby, coming face-to-face with the team president’s bald head. But, the job will be handled by MLB security, which is now in the hotels of road teams to watch the coming and going of players and staff following the coronavirus outbreak within the Miami Marlins organization. The rest is up to the Nationals.

“When you go on the road, you get in a routine: your favorite places to eat breakfast, your favorite places to go get coffee,” Martinez said. “There’s going to be none of that. And, that’s going to be tough. We got to adhere to the protocols. In order to keep everybody safe, we’ve got to stay in the hotel. So there’s going to be different things that we need to do. There’s not going to be any gallivanting around the city anymore. A lot of these cities, honestly, are pretty much closed down and there’s not a whole lot going on.

“We’ve got to be smart. If we’re going to pull this off and keep everybody safe, the best thing is to stay in the hotel and chill. There’s going to be plenty of food -- from what I gather -- at the ballpark. We’ve got restaurants that are going to cook for us. We’ll have lunch, we’re going to have dinner after the game. I think now we just got to feed ourselves for breakfast. I’m hearing that the hotels are going to be open for breakfast for room service, but we’ve got to do whatever we can to stay safe.”

One issue will be the pull to see family in different places. Juan Soto has family in New York. Several players have family in the Miami area. When Martinez returns to Tampa in mid-September, his adult children already know they won’t be meeting in order to protect his safety and that of the team.

“They understand,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, when this is all over, I’ll spend a lot of time with them.”

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He and Rizzo have trumpeted the same point from the start: what happens away from the field impacts everyone who goes to it. So, stay home, do your part, do not be the single lit match.

Testing negative, keeping the house in order, and playing on has both become a point of pride and competition. The Nationals enter the week with only one positive test result since play began -- that belonged to Soto, and he thought it was a false positive -- and the league’s worst offense. Without their best hitter, Washington has gone through a season-long scoring drought. Only the St. Louis Cardinals have scored fewer runs. They have also played seven fewer games because of a coronavirus outbreak in their organization.

“It's a new baseball season that we've never had before,” Rizzo said. “There's protocols in place that kind of break the routine that we've had our whole careers and our whole lives. So the team that adapts to that best and easiest and most seamlessly will have an advantage of being more comfortable playing baseball. Once the game starts, you're just playing baseball. I think that everybody kind of gets into their comfort zone, at least for the three hours during the game.”

The playing baseball portion has been more difficult than following protocols. The Nationals are a bewildering 4-7 through the jagged first two weeks of the season. They arrive in New York with Max Scherzer ready to return Tuesday. They may also recall a four-game series in Citi Field from last year. When the Nationals walked into the park, they were in a bad place. When they walked out, everything was worse.

They want to worry about the pitching matchups more than hotel entrances and exits. The league has tightened protocols since the Marlins debacle. The Nationals are even working on how to spread out their pregame meetings in conference rooms. And, maybe Martinez was on to something. In a season where cardboard cutouts have been put to use, a life-sized Rizzo with his hands on hips in the hotel lobby may just come in handy.

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