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More on what the Nationals agreeing to a deal with Max Scherzer means

Max Scherzer. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

For most of Sunday, it seemed the biggest story line of the Nationals’ week was Jerry Blevins not agreeing to a deal by Friday’s arbitration deadline  a low standard of intrigue, to be sure, given he’ll likely agree to terms long before hearings begin in February.

But within a few fateful hours Sunday evening, the whole script  of the week, of the offseason, and potentially of the Nationals’ future  flipped, as Washington went from quiet offseason bystanders to unexpected poachers, agreeing to terms with the consensus gem of the free agent market, Max Scherzer.

Until late Sunday, when reports surfaced of the Nationals’ interest, they seemed wholly uninterested in dropping nearly $200 million over more than half a decade on a front-line starter. Now that Barry Svrluga reports it’s all but official, the soon-to-be signing raises as many questions as it seems to provide answers. Here are a few of them. They may be answered Monday or in the days ahead. Some may take months to play out. Regardless, we’ll provide answers as we get them, so check back here throughout your holiday for the latest on what is certainly one of the most impact-heavy signings in the history of the Washington Nationals.

What exactly are the terms of the deal? 

No one has nailed down an exact figure for this deal yet. Ken Rosenthal reported Sunday night the deal will be for more than $180 million, though that number may prove to be more of a ballpark figure ( … sorry). Anywhere in that range would mean Scherzer is getting money similar to his former teammate, Justin Verlander, who signed a 7-year, $180 million dollar deal in 2013 at age 30. That made him the game’s highest-paid pitcher at the time. Scherzer is 30 this season.

According to Neil Greenberg of our Fancy Stats blog, Scherzer is worth a deal made at that price.

UPDATE (11:56 am): Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports reported the deal is a seven-year deal worth $210 million, half of which will be deferred. Adam Kilgore has confirmed that the value of the deal will be $210 million, making it the second-largest contract for a pitcher in major league history, most ever for a right-hander.

Who provided the impetus for the deal?

Nationals GM and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo and his staff are wary of $100 million-dollar deals for pitchers  and as Barry Svrluga pointed out in November, history suggests they should be. So the idea that Rizzo and Co. took a team that’s been recently wary of payroll and turned it into a high-roller for the sake of a starter to slide into the game’s steadiest starting rotation would mark a departure from the organization’s recent thinking.

But Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, has a history of negotiating with owners, and if the Lerners were highly involved in this particular deal, that may signal an all-in-for-2015 mentality on their part. It could reveal a willingness to balloon the payroll with an eye on this year’s World Series  not necessarily at the expense of future seasons, but certainly at a greater expense than the Lerners have sponsored in the past. With Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Jordan Zimmermann all headed to free agency next year, the move could mean the Lerners are going for it.

Does this deal beget another?

As soon as rumors of Scherzer’s signing broke, speculation exploded that the Nationals would now look to trade another starter  namely free-agency bound Jordan Zimmermann, but perhaps even Stephen Strasburg  to clear cap and rotation space for Scherzer and get elite prospects back. Reports all offseason suggested that the Nationals had entertained offers on both players, though Rizzo has said again and again that Washington will not move a player for the sake of moving him: the Nationals will only make a deal if they get good value in return. If the Lerners are ready to shoulder the burdens of an expanded 2015 payroll to track down a World Series title, no trade may come. But teams will certainly be calling the Nationals with offers, so exactly what those offers entail and how willing Rizzo is to listen could dictate the shape of the Nationals rotation this year and in the future.