Less than two years removed from a World Series championship, the Washington Nationals find themselves on the brink of transition. Currently sitting in fourth place in the National League East, D.C’s team is positioned to be the most intriguing seller this trade deadline season. At the center of that fascination is the team’s franchise player, Max Scherzer.
Much was made about the Nationals free agent acquisition of Scherzer prior to the 2015 season. The price seemed hefty for the former Detroit Tiger, but Washington’s seven-year, $120 million leap of faith paid off. At 34 years old and a pending free agent, the right-handed hurler could be on the block after his stint on the IL has reached its end. Is he? At this point, it’s purely speculation. Should he? It’s bound to be one of the great debates this summer.
Speculating on what the Nationals can expect in return for the hurler can be based on past deadline-deals that have involved elite arms. And if Scherzer does find himself wearing a different uniform after July 30, his name will be added to the high-profile list.
Justin Verlander (DET) Packs His Bags for Houston
September 1, 2017
It was dramatic and unexpected, yet timely. The Tigers sent Verlander to the Houston Astros late in the 2017 campaign for Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers. Prior to his arrival in Houston, Verlander had posted a 3.82 ERA with the Tigers in 2017. The trade officially closed the book on an era in Detroit. A trade involving Scherzer this summer would surely carry that same impact for the Nationals.
Verlander and Scherzer have had comparable careers, and their stock on the trade market can also be seen with similarities. The Tigers acquired three prospects from the Astros in 2017, but only one of which (Perez) was labeled as a top-three farmhand according to MLB.com.
In 13 starts this season, Scherzer has posted career numbers. Of course, his body of work in 2021 cannot be compared to his years in which he started over 30 games. But his high trade value is what’s most significant from the Nationals perspective. If Washington chooses to trade Scherzer this July, the minimum return would likely look similar to what the Tigers received from Houston four years ago.
Yu Darvish (TEX) Sent to Dodgers to Form ‘Super Rotation’
July 31, 2017
When Darvish was dealt from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles, his ERA was 4.01 through 22 starts. Like Verlander, it’s a significant downgrade from what Scherzer has produced in 2021. Darvish was 30 years old at the time of the trade. For Texas, the returns have proven to be limited. Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brendon Davis were farmhands sent to Arlington in exchange for the right-handed hurler.
Up until the arrival of Cole Hamels in 2015, Texas had penciled in Darvish as the team’s ace beginning in 2012. He was hardly a franchise cornerstone, especially in comparison to what Scherzer has accomplished with Nationals.
The baseball world can assume that Washington will likely ask for more than market value, based on what Scherzer has meant to the franchise. That is an ask that the Rangers just could not accomplish.
Zack Greinke (MIL) Shipped to Angels
July 27, 2012
Greinke had previously acted as the ace in Kansas City with the Royals. After being dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason prior to 2011, the right-handed pitcher enjoyed similar success and his first taste of postseason baseball in Wisconsin.
What makes the Greinke trade out of Milwaukee so intriguing was that he was acquired only a year earlier. When the Royals dealt their ace to Milwaukee, the return was substantial. Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress were all sent to Kansas City. Part of the Brewers’ strategy with trading Greinke to the Angels was to immediately recoup that prospect capital. The Angels sent their top prospect to Milwaukee in Jean Segura, as well as Double-A pitchers Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg in 2012.
The difference between Greinke early in the 2010’s and Scherzer in 2021 is evident. Career trajectories matter when trading top-of-the-line hurlers. With Scherzer in his age-34 season, this may be the last time his trade value is as high as it is now. Let’s also not forget that a potential trade involving the current Nationals ace may signal the final time he is dealt.
Follow Logan Lockhart on Twitter @lgllockhart
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images