Max Scherzer is the highest-profile starting pitcher available at the MLB trade deadline and as many as 14 teams have inquired about his availability. The 37-year-old is an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and led the Washington Nationals to a World Series title in 2019. So yeah, he's going to draw some interest.
Scherzer is in the final season of a seven-year, $210 million deal he signed with the Nationals back in 2015. He's a pure rental and will need to waive his no-trade clause for any move to happen. So far this season he's 7-4 with a 2.83 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 105 innings. The righty is currently on the IL with a triceps injury but has been cleared to make his next start.
If the Nationals are selling Scherzer -- and it appears they are -- they'll have no trouble finding a buyer. Here's a look at five potential landing spots for the ace.
Max Scherzer Trade Rumors
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers make the most sense here. After losing Dustin May for the season thanks to Tommy John surgery, and with Trevor Bauer almost certainly done due to sexual assault allegations the rotation has some issues. Additionally, Clayton Kershaw is on the IL due to forearm issues, which makes matters even worse. Walker Buehler and Julio Urias are still there, but Tony Gonsolin and David Price are currently rounding out a rotation that could use some help. Renting Scherzer to help with their repeat bid makes a ton of sense for the Dodgers, especially assuming they get everyone back next season (save for Bauer who could be gone for good).
LA is attempting to repeat as World Series champions this year and no one knows when Kershaw will be back. Deepening the rotation with the best pitcher on the market is the only way to ensure it will be up to par in the playoffs. This is the landing spot that makes the most sense.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are a surprise this season and have the best record in baseball. The team's starting rotation has been incredible all year but adding Scherzer could easily knock Alex Wood or Logan Webb out of the starting rotation and no one would be upset. Plus, adding an All-Star like Scherzer would have the double-impact of preventing the Dodgers from getting him. That's a huge bonus to San Francisco's World Series hopes.
Making this deal work would cost the Giants in prospects, but this is an opportunity they may not soon have again with the Dodgers and Padres set up to compete for years. This might be the time to push all-in.
San Diego Padres
I'm not sure if this is possible or not, but it's the Padres and they're run by A.J. Preller who can conjure deals out of nowhere, so yeah, we're putting them in here. From what I'm told, the Padres are talking to everyone in their search to improve an already excellent roster. Blake Snell hasn't lived up to expectations this year, nor has Chris Paddack, and Dinelson Lamet is still struggling with arm issues. San Diego almost certainly needs to find another starter at the deadline and Scherzer fits their never-ending search for high-end talent.
Pairing Scherzer and Yu Darvish atop the rotation would be fantastic. Add in Joe Musgrove and Snell -- if he can get on track -- and the Padres would have a formidable postseason rotation to go with what has been baseball's best bullpen for much of the year.
It's also worth noting that Scherzer is a pure rental, which is likely just fine with the Padres, as they'll get Mike Clevinger back next year, and hopefully top prospect MacKenzie Gore's struggles will be ironed out by then. Everyone else in the rotation will be back in 2022 as well, so they don't need to find a long-term fit at the deadline.
Scherzer has had a lot to say about the Astros' sign-stealing scandal from 2017, but the chance to win a World Series might soften his feelings towards the players in Houston. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, along with the second-best record in the American League. They could use another ace to add to a starting mix that includes Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia. A move like this would also allow some of the other starters like Framber Valdez and Jose Urquidy (when he returns) to move to the bullpen.
The Astros don't have a ton of holes, so this would be an example of the rich getting richer. It would give them a frontline starter with World Series experience who could help them get back to the top.
Tampa Bay Rays
The defending American League champions have been really good this year. They're currently 60-40 and 1.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. But with Tyler Glasnow's return uncertain, the Rays need an ace, something they currently don't have. Thanks to their notorious penny-pinching ways, the Rays have plenty of room to fit Scherzer in their roster.
No one knows if Scherzer would waive his no-trade clause to go to the Rays, but it could give him a great chance to win another World Series. Tampa Bay was so close in 2020 and pitching was truly the team's downfall against the Dodgers. The Rays have a loaded farm system and have the prospects to offer the Nationals the best deal. We'll see if they can pull it off and convince Scherzer to head south.