Max Scherzer remains the most intriguing trade candidate on the market, and interested parties will get one more look at him before deciding on an asking price. Nats skipper Dave Martinez announced to reporters Thursday morning that Scherzer will start Game 1 of the team’s doubleheader against the Phillies (Twitter link via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post).
It seems likely this will be Scherzer’s final start with the Nationals, and it’ll serve as an audition of sorts to prove that his triceps is at full strength; Scherzer was scratched from his Saturday start due to minor triceps discomfort, but an MRI has since come back clean.
With a reported preference to land with one of the three NL West contenders and full no-trade rights to help guide him to a destination he likes, it feels like a matter of when he’s traded rather than one of if. Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post tweets that there’s a feeling throughout the organization that a trade will come together Thursday.
That’s sensible, as the Nats want to leave as much time as possible post-agreement to sort out the finer details of Scherzer waiving his no-trade rights. Adjustments to his contract’s salary deferrals or smaller details along those lines could be arranged as compensation for Scherzer waiving his 10-and-5 no-trade protection. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal writes that the COVID-19 outbreak with which the Nationals are currently dealing may have preoccupied some key Nats personnel and slowed the pace of talks, as some expected them to have a deal in place by Wednesday night.
The acquisition price for premium rentals (e.g. Nelson Cruz, Starling Marte) has been viewed as steep thus far, and Rosenthal unsurprisingly suggests that Washington has a high price on Scherzer. We’ve yet to see one of the premium rental pitchers change hands, however — perhaps because other clubs want to wait until Scherzer is off the board before pushing their own rental starters.
While the prevailing wisdom at the moment is that one of the Giants, Padres or Dodgers are the favorites to land Scherzer, there are at least a couple other possibilities of note. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden writes that Red Sox ownership has pushed the front office to pursue a deal, for instance. The Sox have already been linked to Scherzer, but they’d be something of a surprise fit, given ownership’s longstanding reluctance to cross the luxury tax threshold. Scherzer would have to be viewed as a player worth making that exception, or the Red Sox would likely have to bolster their prospect package in order to convince the Nationals to pay down the remaining salary on Scherzer’s contract. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, meanwhile, suggests that the Padres are more focused on Minnesota’s Jose Berrios than they are on Scherzer at the moment.