If the Washington Nationals become a seller as the trade deadline gets closer, could they move Max Scherzer?
The Washington Nationals have won back-to-back games heading into a weekend series against the New York Mets. But they are still just 7-9 on the season, after posting a 26-34 mark last season to miss the playoffs. After a 2020 season where he wasn’t quite to form (3.74 ERA, 3.46 FIP), Max Scherzer is back on track early this season (1.80 ERA, 3.14 FIP).
According to FanGraphs, the Nationals playoff odds have already dropped a little over seven percentage points since Opening Day. The trade deadline is not for a little over three months, but another injury for Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Juan Soto landing on the IL just this week puts the 2019 champs behind a bit of an eight-ball already.
Could the Nationals look to trade Max Scherzer?
With Scherzer back in ace form, and in the final year of his contract, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com both explored the idea of the Nationals trading him.
First off, there is the matter of Scherzer’s salary. He’s making around $34.5 million this year, so as Feinsand laid out a team that acquired him in late July would be on the hook for about $12 million. As a 10-and-5 player (10 years of service time, five straight with the same team), he has full no-trade rights. But if the Nationals are out of the race, being able to join a contender should make that ability to veto a trade less of an issue. Scherzer will turn 37 on July 27.
As is the Nationals’ mode with big contracts, Scherzer’s contract includes deferred payments. From 2022-2028, they’ll own him $15 million each July 1. An acquiring team may be willing to take on some of that, even though he would be a rental as it stands right now, but it would not move the needle for his trade value.
Trading Scherzer would be the biggest sign the Nationals have given up on contention in 2021. Prior to their late run in 2019 that culminated in a World Series win, the idea of Scherzer on the trade block was out there. If anything, in the final year of his contract, a trade is more likely now if the Nationals don’t get things turned around.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is sure to preach patience publicly, roughly 10 percent into the season right now. But if the team is still struggling to make hay in the race two months from now, a realistic assessment has to include being open to offers on Scherzer.