SPORTS INSIDER – Nationals making big changes; sign Max Scherzer to $210 million deal


nationals-logoCeci Ferrara
January 19, 2015
Sports Writer
Sports Insider

After a disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs last fall, their second in three seasons, the Washington Nationals are making some big off-season moves.  Last week, they traded relief pitcher Tyler Clippard to Oakland in exchange for infielder Yunel Escobar. The trade was slightly surprising, given Clippard’s seven-year tenure with the team, as well as his production value: in 2014, he was 7-4 with a 2.18 ERA. After the trade, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo had only high praise for the ex-National, calling him “Maybe the best eighth-inning setup man in the history of the game.”

So why let him go? Clippard’s stats came with a high price tag (approximately $9 million in 2015), and Washington was looking to use those dollars elsewhere. Though Rizzo admitted that Clippard would be hard to replace, he hinted that the organization was looking to develop young talent to replace him.

“It opens the door to the Blake Treinens of the world and the Aaron Barretts of the world to take the next step in their progression of their career and take more leverage innings,” Rizzo said. Both pitchers made their major league debuts for the Nationals in 2014, and had limited appearances throughout the season.

The Nationals’ off-season moves continued with another surprising announcement Monday – the signing of free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million deal. The agreement between Washington and the right-hander allows for half of the contract to be deferred, meaning he will receive $15 million a year for 14 years. He reportedly also received a $50 million signing bonus.

Scherzer debuted for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008, before being traded to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2010 season. He then spent four years in Detroit, where he emerged as an elite pitcher. He was named an All-Star in 2013 and 2014, and in 2013 won the coveted American League Cy Young award. That year he posted a 21-3 record with a 2.90 ERA and led the Tigers to a World Series appearance.

Washington outfielder Jayson Werth, who signed a 7-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals in late 2010, was thrilled with his newest teammate.

“Signing Max is good news,” he said. “A commitment of that signature signals the organization is committed to winning long term and makes me proud to be a Nat. I look forward to playing defense behind Max and the rest of our pitchers and seeing the vision that brought me to D.C. through. I am excited and will continue to work hard and not rest until this group brings home a championship.”

The deal indeed proves that the Nationals are willing to do whatever it takes to make themselves serious World Series contenders. But it’s surprising they would invest so heavily in a pitcher, when their starting rotation in 2014 led the Major Leagues with a 3.03 ERA, yet their offense was unable to score more than two runs in any of their postseason games. It’s fair to argue that they need an injection of offensive talent in order to make a serious run at a championship title.

There is still a lot of time before Opening Day, and the Nationals’ off-season surprises may be far from over. And though the Nationals need more than just strong pitcher to push them over the edge and onto the World Series stage, the addition of a Cy Young winning pitcher is not a bad place to start.


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