Mad Max Heads to Texas

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest names on the trade market found a new home on Saturday evening as the Texas Rangers picked up pitcher Max Scherzer from the New York Mets in return for shortstop prospect Luisangel Acuña, per Andy Martino. Scherzer’s contract runs through 2024 at a hefty $43.33 million per season, with the Mets covering a little more than $35 million of his remaining deal. Per Jeff Passan, Scherzer won’t exercise his player opt-out and will remain with the Rangers through the end of his contract.

Scherzer isn’t just one of the deadline’s most famous names, of course, but one of the elite pitchers of his generation. And while he’s no longer at his peak, his 3.65 xERA takes some of the sting out of him posting his first ERA north of 4.00 since 2011 (the zERA that ZiPS uses sas 3.73). Indeed, as Mets’ disasters go, Scherzer’s season has been a fairly mild one. His strikeout and walk rates are unimpressive by his standards, but they didn’t dive off a cliff; a lot of the problem has been gopher balls, which tend to be quite volatile for pitchers.

The Rangers’ motivation here is obvious. Their success this season has been a pleasant surprise, but their breakout is mostly due to the team’s offense leading the league in runs scored rather than its pitching prowess. With Jacob deGrom’s injury, only Nathan Eovaldi and Dane Dunning have been standouts in Texas. Jon Gray has been pitching like a serviceable mid-rotation starter, but Martín Pérez and Andrew Heaney aren’t likely to inspire dread in opposing lineups come October. It remains to be seen whether the Rangers can hold off the Astros, but some kind of playoff appearance is likely, and Texas had a real need to firm up its postseason rotation. It certainly doesn’t hurt that adding Scherzer can help the Rangers keep the Astros from sneaking into the division lead in the meantime.

ZiPS expects Scherzer to pitch better than he has so far this season, though not quite to the level of his best years.

ZiPS Projection – Max Scherzer
Year W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ WAR
RoS 2023 4 3 3.36 11 11 64.3 55 24 10 15 77 130 1.2
2024 9 8 3.94 24 24 141.7 127 62 25 36 159 109 2.2

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Max Scherzer (2024)
Percentile ERA+ ERA WAR
95% 173 2.47 4.4
90% 150 2.84 3.8
80% 134 3.19 3.3
70% 124 3.46 2.9
60% 114 3.75 2.5
50% 109 3.94 2.2
40% 101 4.22 1.9
30% 94 4.57 1.4
20% 87 4.94 1.0
10% 79 5.39 0.6
5% 72 5.97 0.0

There’s a pretty big projected drop-off from 2023 to 2024, as any player approaching 40 represents a significant risk. However, even a rather middling 2024 projection is likely to be beneficial to the Rangers.

The Mets still have a non-zero chance of making the playoffs, but owner Steve Cohen didn’t spend a bazillion dollars to try and limp into the postseason. To my mind, trading Scherzer doesn’t signal a change in approach so much as a temporary tactical retreat so they can fight another day on terrain more to their liking.

If the Mets hadn’t included any money, they likely wouldn’t have received a significant prospect in return and might not have been been able to close the deal at all. Instead, the $35 million headed to Arlington helped them fetch Acuña. Thanks to his very famous brother, Acuña has a lot of name recognition for a prospect of his level. But he’s not riding on anyone’s coattails, as he’s an excellent prospect who has blossomed upon repeating Double-A this year. Acuña is an aggressive player with impressive physical tools and plate discipline that isn’t a tire fire. He already has 42 stolen bases in the minors this year, and in a full season in the majors, has a good shot at challenging for the league lead in swipes. And a .280/.319/.381 translation for a 21-year-old shortstop who isn’t merely faking the position? Yes, please.

ZiPS Projection – Luisangel Acuña
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2024 .240 .297 .337 513 68 123 19 2 9 59 41 137 41 78 -2 1.6
2025 .240 .298 .344 529 70 127 21 2 10 62 43 134 41 80 -2 1.8
2026 .239 .300 .349 539 73 129 22 2 11 65 46 130 40 81 -1 2.1
2027 .239 .301 .352 545 75 130 22 2 12 67 48 126 39 83 -1 2.2
2028 .238 .301 .353 547 75 130 23 2 12 68 49 123 37 83 -1 2.2
2029 .234 .298 .348 546 74 128 22 2 12 67 49 119 34 81 -1 2.0
2030 .238 .302 .353 538 74 128 22 2 12 67 49 118 32 83 0 2.2

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Luisangel Acuña (2024)
Percentile 2B HR BA OBP SLG OPS+ WAR
95% 30 17 .287 .349 .430 113 4.3
90% 28 15 .279 .335 .409 106 3.7
80% 24 12 .265 .323 .385 98 3.0
70% 22 11 .257 .317 .367 91 2.5
60% 21 10 .245 .307 .351 85 2.0
50% 19 9 .240 .297 .337 78 1.6
40% 18 8 .231 .289 .325 73 1.2
30% 17 8 .222 .282 .315 68 0.8
20% 15 7 .215 .273 .305 63 0.5
10% 13 6 .203 .259 .284 56 -0.2
5% 12 5 .190 .249 .268 47 -0.9

Acuña’s offensive comp list is all over the place, as one might expect for such a raw talent. The best names in the top 20 or so include Rafael Furcal, Dave Concepcion, Trea Turner, Rod Carew, and Tim Anderson. On the bad side, you see players like Donell Nixon, Alfredo Griffin, and Wilton Guerrero.

Michael Baumann will be along shortly with more on this trade, so stay tuned.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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leftycurve66
9 months ago

Max Scherzer’s FIP is 4.73. I think he meant his xERA is 3.65