The Nationals announced they’re placing ace Max Scherzer on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to June 12, due to groin inflammation. Reliever Justin Miller has been selected to the roster to replace him. To clear space for Miller on the 40-man roster, Washington designated righty Rogelio Armenteros for assignment.
Scherzer was forced out of his start on Friday night in the first inning with the groin issue. He downplayed the injury after his start, but he’ll apparently still need some time on the IL to recover. The team didn’t announce an initial timetable for his return.
The 36-year-old Scherzer has been his usual incredible self this season. Through 77 1/3 innings, he’s worked to a pristine 2.21 ERA/2.67 SIERA, striking out a stellar 36% of opposing hitters while walking only 5.2%. Even a minimal IL stint is a tough blow to the 28-35 Nats, who sit in fourth place in the National League East. After wrapping up a series with the Pirates tomorrow, Washington will kick off a run of eleven consecutive games against divisional foes (including five meetings with the division-leading Mets).
If Washington doesn’t get back on track, Scherzer’s name figures to surface in plenty of trade speculation in the coming weeks. He’s slated to hit free agency at the end of the season, and there’d be plenty of demand from contenders for one of the top pitchers in the game. There’s no indication today’s IL stint will last long enough to jeopardize his potential trade candidacy, although it’s still unclear if the team would make him available. Moving star players midseason hasn’t traditionally been the Nationals style, but there’s a case they should listen to offers on Scherzer if they don’t close the division gap in the coming weeks. Having previously received a qualifying offer in his career (back in 2014 from the Tigers), Scherzer is ineligible to be tagged with a QO this winter. Thus, the Nationals could stand to lose him for no compensation if they don’t move him this summer.
Miller makes his way back to Washington for the first time in two years. The righty looked to have broken out with a strong 2018 season in the Nats bullpen, when he tossed 52 1/3 frames of 3.61 ERA/3.34 SIERA ball. A pair of IL stints the following season knocked him off course, though, and his strikeout rate plummeted from 27.9% in 2018 to 16.9% in 2019. The Nationals outrighted him off the 40-man roster that season.
The 34-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays over the 2019-20 offseason. He wound up traded to the Reds but didn’t make it onto either club’s 40-man roster. Miller elected minor league free agency and re-signed with the Nationals this March. He’s been nothing short of dominant this year with Triple-A Rochester. Over 16 1/3 innings, Miller’s allowed just a single earned run, striking out 29 of the 62 batters he’s faced (46.8%) while walking just four.
Like Miller, Armenteros has spent the entire season at Triple-A. He’s been far less successful, though, pitching to a 5.83 ERA with an average 23.1% strikeout rate but an elevated 14.2% walk percentage. Washington will now have a week to trade or waive the 26-year-old, whom they claimed from the Diamondbacks last December. Armenteros was once a decently regarded prospect in the Astros system and still has a pair of minor league option years remaining, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a rival club that needs rotation depth acquire him in a small transaction.