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Will Max Scherzer's 'pitching odometer' generate another big pay day?

Will Max Scherzer's 'pitching odometer' generate another big pay day?

Contract clocks are ticking while everyone waits.

That’s good news for Juan Soto. He is moving closer to future free agency day-by-day. It’s good news for Sean Doolittle. He can become a free agent this winter, probably his final chance to recoup cash after being underpaid for years.

And each day pulled off the calendar moves Max Scherzer closer to the end of his seven-year, $210 million contract. This is Year 6. No one knows if it will include a major-league start or just go by without baseball. But it is known that service time was negotiated into the initial agreement between the league and union in late-March when baseball stopped. This year counts contractually, even if it may not on the field. Which means Scherzer is nearing his end -- at least on this deal -- in Washington.

Scherzer turns 36 years old on July 27. He’s thrown 2,290 regular-season innings. Last year, he made only 27 starts, his first time below 30 since becoming a full-time starter in 2009. Neck and back issues caused multiple injured list stints. He thinks he knows what led to those issues and expected to have them remedied when the 2020 season was supposed to begin.

“The rhomboid, the paraspinals, all the muscles… my throwing mechanics were affecting those [muscles] and I could not figure out why,” Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington at spring training. “I think we identified that it was my front glove side. My front glove side was actually climbing up early as I was coming down the mound and that’s what was, when I was going to throw the baseball, creating all the pressure on the middle of my back. When I dropped down my front side, that actually alleviated the middle back and put all the stress back out on the lat and serratus, where it should be. And, I just had found a bad habit. It was actually a snap-of-the-finger fix and something that should have benefits going forward.”

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So, let’s assume that is true. What does he have left? What is next for him contractually?

When his agent, Scott Boras, met with the Lerner family to work out Scherzer’s initial deal, he argued to them Scherzer was the equivalent of a lightly used luxury vehicle.

“One of the key focuses of his contract is what I call the pitching odometer,” Boras told NBC Sports Washington. “Because Max chronologically and his pitching odometer -- he was almost like three years younger. He had less innings than a Felix Hernandez or a CC Sabathia or a [Clayton] Kershaw who were all great pitchers in their time. But he had almost three or four seasons less. So when we look at his age, keep mind that I’ve always said, the Washington Nationals, innings-wise, signed a 27-year-old. So, they didn’t sign a 30-year-old. I’ve always looked at Max that way. So certainly, his performance, production, certainly who he is have all rang true to that appraisal.”

Boras has a valid talking point here. By the time Scherzer was 29 years old -- he turned 30 midway through his first season in Washington -- he had 1,239 1/3 innings in the majors. Scherzer entered the league with Arizona as a 23-year-old. He made just seven starts among his 16 appearances that year. He then became a full-time starter the following season.

When compared with Hernandez, Sabathia and Kershaw, Scherzer’s usage is distinctly lower to that point. Hernandez threw 2,262 ⅓ mostly fruitless innings for the going-nowhere Seattle Mariners by the time he was 29 years old. Sabathia threw 2,127. Kershaw was at 1,935 after making 21 starts in 2008 when he was 20 years old. To Boras’ point, the trio had much more major-league labor on their arm and body.

As did Greg Maddux, whom Boras used as a comparison point when asked how much longer he thought Scherzer would pitch. Maddux threw 2,120 ⅔ innings from age 20 to 29. He also pitched until he was 42.

“When you have the competitive zeal and you have the ability to locate a fastball to the true pitch ability of a four-pitch performance like Max has, you can’t look at them in the perspective of others,” Boras said. “They’re on a unique island. That rare place is a definition that is unilaterally his own because of who he is.”

This is, of course, Scherzer’s agent speaking. So, add the proper caveats.

Also look at the decline Maddux went through in his final full years on the mound.

He pitched five full seasons from age 36 on, and his ERA rose progressively: 2.62 at 36, 3.96 at 37, 4.02 at 38, 4.24 at 39, 4.20 at 40.

Scherzer’s future will be hard-pressed to match his past, though the body of work since arriving in Washington has held. He averaged 219 innings, a 2.76 ERA, 11.3 Ks/9 and a 0.931 WHIP in the first three years. The last two: 197 innings, 2.70 ERA, 12.4 Ks/9 and 0.962 WHIP.

If he doesn’t pitch in 2020, Boras can reboot his odometer argument. Scherzer will be 36 years old, but his innings total will be in line with that of Hernandez, Sabathia, Kershaw and Maddux when they were 29. So, how much does he have left? And how much will teams want to pay for it?

“When you look at that and you say, ‘How long can Max go?’” Boras rhetorically asked. “The answer is I see no visible signs that would suggest that Max is not capable of being who Max has been for a good period of time.”

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Why being lame ducks only helps Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez in contract talks

Why being lame ducks only helps Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez in contract talks

The Nationals’ biggest free agent of the past decade isn’t Bryce Harper nor Anthony Rendon. It’s President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, who is in the midst of preparing for the 2020 season without any certainty about his future beyond it.

Even after the Nationals won their first World Series title in franchise history last October, principal owner Mark Lerner and his father Ted have yet to ink an extension for their longtime GM.

The same goes for manager Davey Martinez, who is only signed through this season with a team option for 2021. Martinez is credited with keeping the clubhouse on track despite a 19-31 start to the season before pulling all the right strings, particularly with his pitching staff, throughout the playoffs.

Both Rizzo and Martinez have reached the pinnacle of their respective positions, leading their club to a championship. Yet they find themselves in the unenviable positions of not knowing whether they’ll remain employed in D.C. after this year. However, there is one advantage to the position they’re in.

RELATED: WITH BASEBALL RETURNING, NATIONALS' GM AND MANAGER CONTRACTS REMAIN A PRESSING ISSUE

Former New York Mets GM and current MLB Network Radio analyst Steve Phillips joined NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast Tuesday and touched on Rizzo and Martinez’s situation. Phillips understands their position after he went into the final year of his contract with the Mets in 2000 without a deal before helping his team to its first NL pennant in 14 years.

“It’s not the worst spot to be in to wait,” Phillips said. “If you go to the playoffs again this year, all it does is add to your value. And if you don’t, you’re still the World Series champion from the year before and can play on that.”

This is a situation Rizzo and the Nationals have been in before. Rizzo entered the 2018 season without a deal before agreeing to a reported two-year, $8 million extension in April. Though the Nationals had yet to advance past the NLDS at that point, they were still one of the winningest teams of the previous five years—a feat with Rizzo’s fingerprints all over it.

After winning a World Series, Rizzo’s salary expectations will likely be much higher. The highest paid executives in the sport are Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein (about $10 million a year), Los Angeles Dodgers president Andrew Friedman ($7 million) and New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman ($5 million).

Washington has a messy history with managers as well. The club tried to hire now-Colorado Rockies skipper Bud Black in 2015 but offered only a one-year, $1.6 million deal that left Black “deeply offended.” The Nationals instead signed Dusty Baker to a two-year deal worth $4 million with incentives. Martinez will have only made $2.8 million in his three years with the Nationals by the end of 2020.

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“I think both guys will still be there [beyond 2020],” Phillips said. “I don’t think Rizzo wants to leave. I don’t think that Dave Martinez wants to leave. And I think they’ll find a way to get a deal done to keep both guys in D.C.”

The deadline is approaching for the Nationals to work out a deal with Rizzo, and even if they exercise their club option on Martinez for 2021, his turn will come next year. Washington may be saving money in the short-term by keeping Rizzo and Martinez on their current contracts, but the World Series champion GM and skipper only have leverage to gain by waiting at the negotiating table.

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Max Scherzer purchases new waterfront mansion in Jupiter for $9.8M, per report

Max Scherzer purchases new waterfront mansion in Jupiter for $9.8M, per report

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer has purchased a waterfront mansion in Jupiter, Fla., according to real estate site The Real Deal. The 7,778-square foot property sold for $9.8 million, per the report. It was previously owned by real estate investor Justin Daniels and wife Robin Daniels.

The mansion, built in 2018, has five bedrooms, seven-and-a-half bathrooms, a four-car garage, and over 120 feet of water frontage.

Judging off pictures of the property posted to Twitter by Action Network's Darren Rovell, Scherzer has found quite the getaway.

The inside features a chef's kitchen with dual wall ovens, while the outside has a resort-style pool and 70-foot boat slip. More photos can be seen here.

RELATED ARTICLE: MAX SCHERZER AMONG MLB PLAYERS WHO HELD SECRET FLORIDA PRACTICES, PER REPORT

In 2015, Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals that runs through the 2021 season. The three-time Cy Young winner turns 36 on July 26, just days after the expected start of the season.

According to The Athletic, Scherzer was part of a group of more than 30 MLB players practicing in Palm Beach in June. It seems baseball wasn't the only business he was taking care of Florida.

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