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If the Washington Nationals look like a seller in the time between now and the trade deadline, these five teams could make an offer for Max Scherzer.
By his standards, Max Scherzer didn’t have a great 2020 season (3.74 ERA, 3.1 BB/9). But he’s back to his typical ace form so far this season, with a 1.80 ERA, a typical K/9 (11.9) and a better BB/9 (1.4) through four starts.
With back-to-back wins over the St. Louis Cardinals this week, the Washington Nationals are on a better track heading into a weekend series against the NL East rival New York Mets. But they are still just 7-9 on the season, with Stephen Strasburgh and Juan Soto both on the IL right now.
In the final year of his contract now, two plugged-in MLB reporters (Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com) have taken a look at the idea the Nationals could trade Scherzer. It’s not as far-fetched as it may seem. Feinsand cited a similar scenario from 2017 when the Detroit Tigers traded Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros.
Scherzer is making $34.5 million this year, and he has full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player. He’s also owed a $15 million deferred payment each July 1 from 2022-2028, so an acquiring team may have to consider the idea of picking up some of that. But on the other hand that deferred money is the Nationals’ problem, not necessarily a problem for a team who’d trade for Scherzer.
If the Nationals do consider trading some players, headlined by Scherzer, here are five teams who could make an offer for the three-time Cy Young Award winner.
Which teams could make a trade offer for Max Scherzer?
San Francisco Giants
With four wins in their last five in the midst of a seven-game homestand, the Giants are 12-7 entering Friday. As currently constructed, with Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Kevin Gausman all possibly headed for free agency after the season, this is the last potential run with that group.
With Cueto on the IL, the Giants’ rotation is Gausman, Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez and Logan Webb right now. Sanchez has been a nice surprise (1.83 ERA over four starts), but a correction of some sort is looming (3.40 FIP) if he can’t miss more bats (6.4 K/9).
If the Giants hope to stay competitive with the Dodgers and Padres, adding a piece or two will be practically mandatory. Getting Scherzer, with a top-12 farm system to deal from, would be a big deal.
The Astros are not afraid to make big moves for top-end starting pitching, from Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte back in the day to Gerrit Cole or the aforementioned deal for Verlander more recently. Verlander (Tommy John surgery) may not pitch this season, which adds to the need for starting pitching in Houston.
The AL West is wide open, and if the Astros hadn’t lost nine out of 10 recently they’d likely be near the top rather than 3.5 games out (entering Friday). The farm system is not nearly as good as it once was (29th in baseball, according to MLB.com entering the season), but Houston can’t be ruled out as an eventual suitor for Scherzer.