The guy who did almost nothing but win in Detroit said he went to Washington because he wanted to win.
Max Scherzer slipped on his new No. 31 Nationals jersey during an introductory press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon, officially putting an end to his spectacular five-year run with the Tigers.
Asked why the Nationals, Scherzer was quick with a response.
"It's pretty easy. It's one (reason). Winning," he said. "This team is capable of winning, and winning a lot, when you look at the near-term and long-term. This is an organization you want to be a part of."
Scherzer's new deal will pay him $210 million for seven years — but he'll actually be paid $15 million a year for 14 years, as part of a deferred-compensation package the Nationals presented to make it work.
Scherzer said on MLB Network that's the way the Nationals wanted to go, and he was fine with that even though some have criticized the deal from his perspective, saying $210 million paid over seven years is worth a lot more than paid over 14 years, when you factor in all the economic variables.
Still, it's a boatload of money, and that's not lost on the ace right-hander.
"It was jaw-dropping," he said, with a smile. "You work so hard to put yourself in this position. I don't play this game for money, but at the same time, when you have an offer like that, it just makes you go, 'Wow.'"
Scherzer's contract is the second-largest ever for a pitcher, trailing only Dodgers ace Clayton Kershsaw's $220-million deal.
It's worth $66 million more than the Tigers offered last spring. Scherzer and agent Scott Boras rejected that, which didn't sit well with an owner, Mike Ilitch, who is used to getting anything he wants. Detroit and Scherzer had very little contract dialogue after that, though the Tigers never ruled him out until Sunday, when word spread that he was D.C.-bound.
"These opportunities don't come up every day," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We feel like we've got a young 30-year-old with an arm with a lot of mileage left, and a guy that's gonna take us into competitive games for a very, very long time."
As the Nationals celebrated their new addition, the Tigers are understandably a bit bummed. Expect the players and coaches to be asked at length about Scherzer's departure during the caravan Thursday and Friday, and TigerFest on Saturday.
One Tiger got a head start on the questions Wednesday.
"Max meant a lot to the team," Alex Avila told The News. "He was a big part of our success."
Rizzo, meanwhile, has a history with Scherzer. He was the director of scouting for the Diamondbacks when Arizona drafted Scherzer 11th overall out of Missouri. Nationals manager Matt Williams knows Scherzer well, too. He managed him at Double-A Mobile in 2007.
Williams recalled that season Wednesday. He said back then, the prospects had a 100-pitch limit per start. One start, Scherzer was at 97, so Williams strolled out to the mound to tell Scherzer he had three pitches to get the next hitter out.
The next three pitches were 97, 98 and 99.
"And he struck him out," Williams said. "That's the kind of guy that you see up here. He hasn't changed since then. He's a bulldog."
The Tigers acquired Scherzer in December 2009, in a three-way trade with the Yankees and Diamondbacks. Curtis Granderson went to New York and Edwin Jackson to Arizona in exchange for Scherzer from the Diamondbacks and Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from the Yankees.
The deal was criticized by Tigers fans.
But not for long. After Scherzer struggled early in his Detroit tenure, he was sent to Triple-A Toledo. Once he came back, he was an ace. In five years with the Tigers, he was 82-35 with a 3.52 ERA. He won the Cy Young in 2013, and over the last four years, the Tigers won 70 percent of the games he started. He helped lead them to four straight American League Central titles, and a World Series appearance in 2012.
Now he joins a Nationals team that has, easily, the best rotation in baseball, with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. The Nationals were a World Series favorite even before the Scherzer deal.
"I want to win," Scherzer said. "That's why I'm here."