Where Max Scherzer's Mets Contract Ranks Against 2022 MLB Team Payrolls

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVNovember 30, 2021

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) walks to the dugout after throwing during the first inning of a National League Wild Card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Max Scherzer is on pace to count for more money in 2022 than the entire payrolls of some MLB teams.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported the three-time Cy Young winner struck a three-year, $130 million deal with the New York Mets. As Jeff Passan of ESPN noted, his $43.3 million average salary is not only an MLB record, but also eclipses the current outlay for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles:

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

Estimated current opening day payrolls, per <a href="https://twitter.com/baseballpro?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@baseballpro</a>:<br><br>Seattle Mariners: $57 million<br>Cleveland Guardians: $46.7 million<br>Max Scherzer: $43.3 million<br>Pittsburgh Pirates: $40.2 million<br>Baltimore Orioles: $37 million

In the Seattle Mariners' defense, they're fresh off striking a five-year, $115 million agreement with Robbie Ray, per Passan, so their 2022 payroll is climbing in a big way.

According to Spotrac, no team spent less than $50.2 million in 2021, so it stands to reason the Pirates and Orioles will outpace Scherzer at some point. Nevertheless, Passan's tweet underscores a major problem with MLB at the moment.

Rebuilds are nothing new, and they're often a necessary step for franchises that aren't in major markets. There's only so much money to spend when you're operating out of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee or Minneapolis.

But the extent to which some owners are cutting costs may not be sustainable.

Every single player on the aforementioned Orioles is either locked into a rookie deal or headed for arbitration. Fans in Baltimore also have to watch speculation grow about the futures of Cedric Mullins and John Means, too.

Dan Connolly @danconnolly2016

What I’m hearing on Orioles and John Means: Same as last winter. Teams are calling. Orioles will engage in discussions. No plans to deal him or Mullins. But you can never say never depending on the offer. But they aren’t actively shopping Means (or Mullins), either.

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

Word has gotten out that the Orioles would listen on star CF Cedric Mullins, and teams are lining up to give it a shot knowing it’s a long shot. Asking price is understandably extremely high. All these teams (and more) could use a CF: Philly, Rangers, Astros, Giants, Mets, Yanks.

The issue isn't limited to those at the bottom of the financial spectrum.

The Chicago Cubs jettisoned franchise stalwarts Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant midway through the 2021 season as the trio approached free agency. Chicago has done nothing substantial this winter.

Bleacher Nation @BleacherNation

Big part of what's frustrating to Cubs fans is that, tho payrolls were really high as recently as 2019, *new expenditures* of have been almost entirely absent for a very long time. <br><br>Only multi-year positional free agent deal in the last SIX years? 2 yrs &amp; 5M for Daniel Descalso.

Bleacher Nation @BleacherNation

So, I do understand when Cubs say, hey, we were still carrying a luxury tax level payroll through 2019 (and then the pandemic happened &amp; mucked things up for 2020 and 2021). I'm rational. I get it. <br><br>But also, as a fan, it still *FEELS* like they have done so little for so long.

The Boston Red Sox traded Mookie Betts rather than inking him to a long-term extension after ownership signaled a desire to trim payroll. The same story could play out with Rafael Devers, whom MassLive.com's Chris Cotillo reported has made "zero progress" in negotiations with Boston.

Forbes estimated the valuation of almost every single MLB franchise grew in 2021 and only one (the Miami Marlins) is worth less than $1 billion. A generally positive financial outlook for the league doesn't seem to be reflected in player salaries outside the game's elite.