Nationals star Max Scherzer left Friday evening’s start against the Giants in the first inning after a visit from the trainer. He appeared to be dealing with a lower-body issue, according to Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington.
Washington can ill-afford a lengthy absence from Scherzer. At 25-33, the Nationals' hopes of sticking around the postseason picture are already dwindling. Washington’s already without Stephen Strasburg, who’s been on the injured list since June 2 because of nerve irritation in his neck. Patrick Corbin has had a dreadful season, while Joe Ross has below-average numbers. Jon Lester and Erick Fedde have been decent but unspectacular. (Fedde has missed the past three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, but he’s expected to return this weekend, Dybas notes.)
Scherzer has been his usual incredible self in 2021. He entered play Friday night with a sterling 2.22 ERA over 77 innings. Scherzer is missing bats at an elite level, with a 36.1% strikeout rate that ranks fifth among qualified pitchers. He trails only Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole in strikeout/walk rate differential (30.9 percentage points), while his 2.65 SIERA is fourth-lowest in the sport (behind deGrom, Cole and Joe Musgrove).
That level of dominance has surely already inspired teams to call the Nationals to gauge Scherzer’s availability in advance of the July 30 trade deadline. The Nats haven't traditionally been inclined to move star players, but with their playoff odds down to 2.7% (per FanGraphs’ projections), there’s a case they should listen to offers on the impending free agent. (Scherzer does have complete no-trade rights as a player with 10 years of MLB service, five consecutive with his current team). Even nearing his 37th birthday, Scherzer will be one of the more coveted arms on the market this winter. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently placed him 10th on his 2021-22 free-agent power rankings.