After a disappointing end to 2022, and a huge re-imagining of the starting rotation, Max Scherzer started 2023 with the same role as 2022: one of two aces in a star-studded New York Mets rotation. His partner ace changed—Justin Verlander—as did the other starting pitchers on the team, but he looked to lead the Mets to the playoffs yet again, and go further than they had the year before.
However, his season took many twists and turns. An up and down few months, a suspension, and finally a trade spelled the end of his tenure with the Mets halfway through the contract he signed as the lockout loomed at the end of 2021. In the end, like many 2023 Mets, where he ended the year was away from Queens, chasing glory elsewhere.
Over his 19 games in New York, Scherzer threw 107.2 innings, had a 4.01 ERA, a 4.70 FIP, and a 1.189 WHIP. He had maybe his worst season since coming into the league, with an 8.2 H/9, 1.9 HR/9, and 2.5 BB/9. But he graded out for a slightly above average half-year with the Mets, with a 105 ERA+ and 2.2 bWAR.
The bigger issue for the Mets was, while that looks fine—though not what you want from Max Scherzer—on paper after the fact, it was a very rocky few months to get to those stats. In 7 of his 19 starts, Scherzer gave up four or more runs, which doesn’t often transition to success for the team. Plus, at the end of April, when the Mets’ rotation was stretched as thin as it possibly could be, Scherzer was busted for using sticky substances while pitching and was given a ten game suspension. So while, at the end, he graded out fine, he struggled to live up to his standard and he wasn’t able to take the mound when the Mets needed him the most.
At the end of July, with the Mets clearly out of it, he spoke with team management, and he approved a trade to the Texas Rangers, ending the Max Scherzer tenure on the New York Mets. The Mets acquired Luisangel Acuña (brother of Atlanta Braves player Ronald) and ate some of Scherzer’s contract, while the Rangers got Scherzer for the rest of 2023 and all of 2024. While the David Robertson trade was the first signal of a potential selloff, the Scherzer trade was the open for business sign on Citi Field, preceding a flurry of moves just before the deadline. And thus, the hope of a 2023 playoff run died, while the hope of a better future for the Mets minor league system was born.
In the end, Scherzer was fine for the Mets, though many peaks and many, many valleys to get there. And his trade just before the trade deadline was the turning point for the Mets season, officially killing the dream for another playoff run that year. Though it will take a few years to figure out the true impact his tenure had, as Acuña has yet to play a game above Double-A, the memory of Scherzer in a Mets jersey will live on (for better of for worse).