Among the teams rumored with Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer at the upcoming trade deadline, only one has a realistic shot.
Fresh off a start in the 2021 MLB All-Star game, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer will among the most sought-after players as the upcoming July 30 trade deadline looms.
Scherzer, 36, has pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 0.878 WHIP, and a 12.3 K/9 rate over 98 innings in 17 starts this season.
Whether or not Scherzer will be on the move remains to be seen, and it depends on a few things.
For starters, the Nationals (42-47) would need to fall further out of the playoff race. Washington has lost four straight contests and sits six games behind the first-place Mets and nine games out of a Wild Card spot. It’s possible they could add rather than subtract if they hover around this position, but the more ground they lose, the more likely Washington is to sell at the deadline.
The other big factor in a deal is Scherzer’s complicated contract situation. Mad Max will earn roughly $34.5 million in 2021 before he hits the free-agent market this offseason. He has a no-trade clause, meaning he has a say for his trade destination, and he’s owed deferred money over the next seven years. Washington is on the books for $15 million for each year from 2022-2028, totaling $105 million. On top of that, Scherzer will be owed a bonus of around $7.5 million this September.
So it doesn’t come down to just trading away talented players for Scherzer, a big part of whether or not a deal will go down depends on how much of his contract a contending team is willing to make.
3. Could the Braves be interested in a Max Scherzer deal?
It’s not often division rivals will make trades with one another. The last thing a team wants is their worst enemy to benefit from a deal they agreed to.
Since the Nationals (formerly Montreal Expos) moved to Washington in 2005, the Braves and Nats have made just three trades with one another, each of which can be considered on a small scale. The last deal between the two foes came in 2016, when Washington traded Tyler Moore to Atlanta in exchange for Nate Freiman. Neither player is currently in the major leagues.
Regardless, the Braves should at least inquire about Scherzer. Atlanta starting pitchers own a 4.05 ERA this season (14th-lowest MLB), and have been hampered by injuries to key members of the rotation. They sit one game under .500, and four games behind first place and seven games out of a Wild Card spot.
They’ll be busy finding solutions to replace an injured Ronald Acuña Jr who is out with a season-ending ACL tear, but starting pitching should also be a priority.
The Braves haven’t been known as big spenders so it’s unlikely they take on the bulk of Scherzer’s current salaries and bonuses. Getting rid of a top prospect might be the best bet to have Washington take on the majority of his contract.
Atlanta’s top prospects, catcher (No.3) Shea Langelier and shortstop (No. 4) Braden Shewmake, could be enough to land Scherzer at little to no cost in terms of salary, but it’s an extremely high risk being taken by the Braves for just half a season of Mad Max.