New York Mets

Max Scherzer says Mets brass had ‘completely different vision' for club's future

Scherzer detailed the conversations he had with the Mets about the club's future plans before he was traded to the Rangers

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The New York Mets entered the 2023 season with the largest payroll in MLB history as they set their sights on a World Series title.

But it seemingly took around 100 games for owner Steve Cohen and Co. to completely change course.

The Mets, who haven't been above .500 since June 3, were involved in the two biggest deals ahead of Tuesday's MLB trade deadline. First, they moved three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to the Texas Rangers for infield prospect Luisangel Acuna. Then, the club's other big-money three-time Cy Young winner, Justin Verlander, was reunited with the Houston Astros in a deal for outfield prospects Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford.

New York had to eat a ton of money to complete those trades, as well. The Mets reportedly will pay around $35 million of the roughly $58 million in salary that both Scherzer and Verlander are owed over the next one-plus seasons. New York reportedly is also on the hook for $17.5 million of Scherzer's $35 million vested option for 2025.

And, according to Scherzer, the Mets were willing to make even more drastic changes to the big league roster.

In an interview with The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, Scherzer detailed his conversations with Mets general manager Billy Eppler before he was dealt to the Rangers. Scherzer, who held a no-trade clause, said he initially wanted to remain in New York until learning of the club's plans to not pursue top free agents this offseason and to take a step back in 2024, with eyes on 2025 and 2026.

“I talked to Billy," Scherzer said. "I was like, ‘OK, are we reloading for 2024?’ He goes, ‘No, we’re not. Basically our vision now is for 2025-2026, ‘25 at the earliest, more like ‘26. We’re going to be making trades around that.'

“I was like, ‘So the team is not going to be pursuing free agents this offseason or assemble a team that can compete for a World Series next year?’ He said, ‘No, we’re not going to be signing the upper-echelon guys. We’re going to be on the smaller deals within free agency. ‘24 is now looking to be more of a kind of transitory year.’”

Scherzer added that the Mets were open to dealing any player who's scheduled to hit free agency after 2024, which would include three-time All-Star first baseman Pete Alonso.

“If they had said, ‘We’re going to hold on to all the ‘24 pieces,’ that would have been a different story,” Scherzer said. “But they were saying no, we’re going to be moving players that are under contract for 2024 before the deadline.

“We walked through some players I had in mind who would be that. It turned out it was much more extensive than that. The players we ended up talking about who are free agents after ‘24, they were more substantial names. Any player who was a free agent after 2024 at the right price could be moved right now at the deadline.

“That’s a completely different vision from what everybody had in the clubhouse. All the players had a vision of, we reload for 2024. That was no longer the case.”

After talking with Eppler about the franchise's change in direction, Scherzer wanted to hear from Cohen, who said after buying the Mets in 2020 that it would be "disappointing" if the team didn't win a World Series within three to five years. But Cohen went on to tell Scherzer “exactly the same thing, kind of verbatim," the pitcher said.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Eppler declined to go into details about his talks with Scherzer. He did, however, say the Mets don't see themselves going into 2024 with "the same odds" as they did in 2022 and '23 but that they still plan to field a "competitive team."

Any Mets fans who had dreams of Shohei Ohtani in blue and orange won't like hearing Scherzer's comments. Given the club's spending power, New York has been viewed as a logical suitor for the two-way superstar, who will be a free agent this winter.

But Scherzer's description of the Mets' future plans doesn't sound like a team preparing to make a run at the best player in baseball.

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