As of last night, there were at least eight clubs interested in Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who is open to waiving his no-trade rights but said to have a preference for a West Coast club that has the ability to keep him longer-term.
Scherzer figures to be one of the most talked-about trade candidates in recent memory, but his stay on the market may not go down to the wire like some other stars. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Nationals want to get a framework for a trade in place as quickly as possible, in order to leave enough time to work out the details surrounding Scherzer’s no-trade rights and any compensation he’d require to waive them. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that some involved in negotiations believe an agreement could come together by tonight.
While Scherzer has been connected to more than a quarter of the league, Rosenthal and Morosi both suggest that the three NL West contenders — the Padres, Dodgers and Giants — are the likeliest destinations at this time. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand suggested something similar yesterday. Both SNY’s Andy Martino and The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, meanwhile, have indicated that Scherzer would not approve a trade to either New York club.
Any of the three NL West contenders make for a sensible landing spot. The Giants hold the best record in Major League Baseball and ought to be motivated to aggressively strengthen their club down the stretch. The Dodgers’ rotation strength has dwindled since the season began, and the Padres are without several key rotation options themselves at the moment.
Of the bunch, only the Giants could acquire Scherzer without incurring any luxury-tax penalization. Scherzer’s deferral-heavy contract comes with an annual luxury hit of just under $30MM, and the prorated remainder of that hit as of this writing would be $10.49MM. (It’d drop to $10.03MM after the deadline.) The Dodgers, already in the top tax bracket for year-one offenders, would pay a 62.5 percent tax on that $10.03MM overage. The Padres are barely over the threshold at the moment and exploring some ambitious ways to drop back below the barrier; at the moment, they’d pay a 20 percent overage penalty.
Scherzer, who turned 37 yesterday, has pitched to a 2.83 ERA with a 35.1 percent strikeout rate (tying a career-high) and a 4.2 percent walk rate in 105 innings this year. He’s playing on a $35MM salary this year in the final season of a seven-year, $210MM contract, though the bulk of that 2021 salary is deferred to 2028. Schezer was scratched from his Saturday start against the Orioles due to a triceps issue, though the Nationals have indicated that an MRI came back clean. He’s listed as the probable starter for Thursday’s game against the Phillies. Of course, that recent health scare only muddies the water as teams try to put together a framework with the Nats.