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Max Scherzer Trade Rumors: MLB Teams That Can Pull off Blockbuster

Jason CataniaChief Writer IVDecember 22, 2016

Max Scherzer Trade Rumors: MLB Teams That Can Pull off Blockbuster

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    Max Scherzer is on the verge of winning the American League Cy Young Award. Is he also on the verge of being traded?

    "On the verge" might be a bit strong, given that a top-of-the-rotation arm like Scherzer—the favorite to be named the Junior Circuit's top pitcher for the 2013 season on Wednesday—isn't exactly the type of asset that a team with World Series aspirations like the Detroit Tigers just up and deals.

    Then again, the team has made it known that it's listening to offers for the 29-year-old, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. That's attributable to the right-hander's looming free agency after 2014. So if the Tigers don't think they can ink Scherzer long-term, a trade could make sense.

    The other reason general manager Dave Dombrowski might be up for moving Scherzer is to deal from a strength (i.e., the rotation) to bring back a return that would help the Tigers in their multiple areas of need, namely second base, outfield, catcher and bullpen.

    Realize, though, that the Tigers are in win-now mode, coming off three straight AL Central crowns and having been on the doorstep of a championship the past couple years. In other words, if—and it's still a big if—they're going to move Scherzer, it's probably not going to happen for two or three prospects who are a year or two away. They're more likely to want players who can bolster their 25-man roster right away in 2014 and make the club younger and cheaper.

    The cost to acquire will be rather high given Scherzer's incredible performance. After all, we're talking about a guy who posted a 2.90 ERA and AL-leading 0.97 WHIP with 10.1 K/9 while also winning 21 games.

    Money, though, could be a potential hurdle here, as Scherzer's salary is estimated to double from the $6.725 he earned in 2013 to somewhere in the range of $13-14 million in his final go-round at arbitration. And of course, the fact that his agent is Scott Boras, whose clients generally don't sign extensions before hitting the open market, will only further complicate matters, as any interested parties will be hesitant to give up too much for only one year.

    As such, two criteria seem like requirements when it comes to determining which clubs might fit the bill as a trade partner: First, the teams must be contenders ready to make a World Series push next year; and second, there should also be a need for a front-of-the-rotation arm to lead or enhance a staff.

    Of course, it wouldn't hurt for inquiring teams to have the funds to at least be able to offer Scherzer a nine-figure extension, if a deal is contingent upon such a pact.

    Although it may seem unlikely that Scherzer will be traded, primarily because he's been a key part of the Tigers' success the past few seasons and should be again next year, a freshly minted Cy Young winner was, in fact, swapped just last offseason.

    Not quite a year ago, the New York Mets sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays last December for a package of prospects, including catcher Travis d'Arnaud and right-hander Noah Syndergaard.

    There's a key difference with Scherzer, though: The Tigers are on the opposite end of the competition cycle from the rebuilding Mets.

    Whether Scherzer will prove to be the latest ace on the move remains to be seen, but given all of the above circumstances and factors, here's a batch of teams who are most likely to pursue him—and have the means to get a deal done.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Proposal

    OF Andre Ethier, LHP Paco Rodriguez, RHP Zach Lee and OF Joc Pederson for Scherzer

     

    Why It Could Work for the Tigers

    With $71.5 million coming his way the next four seasons, Ethier is on the trade block because he's overpriced. Still, the 31-year-old could handle left field—long a problem spot for the Tigers—in 2014, thus allowing top prospect Nick Castellanos to break in slowly. After Torii Hunter's deal expires following the season, Ethier could shift over to right, and his lefty stick would also help cover the possible loss of Victor Martinez after next year, too.

    Meanwhile, Rodriguez, who emerged as a lefty weapon out of the pen this season (2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 10.4 K/9) would make it easier for Detroit to move fellow southpaw Drew Smyly into the rotation to replace Scherzer. In fact, that decision already appears settled, per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

    The addition of a pair of solid prospects like Lee, who is nearly big league ready after being the Dodgers' top pick in 2010, and Pederson, who posted a 20-30 season as a 21-year-old at Double-A, would bring upside and keep costs down a bit going forward.

    The alternative here could involve L.A. eating some of Ethier's contract to make him cheaper for Detroit, who would then have to settle for less of a return (i.e., only one prospect).

     

    Why It Could Work for the Dodgers

    Like the Tigers, L.A. is in win-at-all-costs-mode, and by bringing in Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco (now a free agent) over the past year, it's become clear that the club favors pitching.

    Scherzer almost certainly would give the Dodgers the best rotation in baseball, at least for a year. And if they could find the money to sign him beyond 2014—you know, if they look deep enough in the couch cushions—then they might also be able to protect themselves if ace Clayton Kershaw bolts after the final year of his contract.

    Plus, with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Rookie of the Year runner-up Yasiel Puig holding down the outfield, Ethier is excess baggage, and Pederson might not soon be missed.

Texas Rangers

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    The Proposal

    2B Ian Kinsler and RHPs Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz for Scherzer

     

    Why It Could Work for the Tigers

    The 31-year-old Kinsler, who's due $62 million for the next four years or $67 million for five, has a more palatable contract than does Ethier. He also fills a more pressing need at second base, which is vacant now that Omar Infante has hit the open market.

    The hard-throwing Scheppers, who broke out with a 1.88 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in a whopping 76 games this season, and Feliz, who was an All-Star closer prior to Tommy John surgery, would bring some stability and electricity to the back of Detroit's dicey bullpen as setup men with closer potential. Again, that would make it easier for Smyly to move into the five-man rotation sans Scherzer.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Rangers

    The Tigers (and their fans) would prefer to help Texas take care of that pesky middle-infield log jam between Kinsler, Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus by landing Profar, a former top prospect. It seems unlikely, though, that the Rangers would surrender several more cheap years of the 20-year-old for only one of Scherzer.

    Still, Texas would be able to install Profar at the keystone to cover for Kinsler, while also teaming Scherzer with Yu Darvish—who finished second and first, respectively, in strikeouts—atop a rotation that suffered through numerous injuries in what turned out to be a disappointing 2013 in the Lone Star State.

Los Angeles Angels

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    The Proposal

    1B/OF/DH Mark Trumbo and 2B Howie Kendrick for Scherzer

     

    Why It Could Work for the Tigers

    Kendrick, who's been mentioned as a chip for the Angels, is an easy fit, as he would satisfy Detroit's need at second. The 30-year-old also comes with a reasonable price tag at just under $20 million over the next two seasons.

    On the other hand, while Trumbo would also come cheap in terms of dollars, he would have to do his best to cover left field when he's not filling in at first for Prince Fielder or at designated hitter for Martinez.

    Then again, seeing how the Tigers have more or less given up on corner defense by deploying Fielder and Miguel Cabrera at first and third, respectively, what's another lead-footed lumberer as long as he's hitting 30 homers? Trumbo, 27, then takes over DH in 2015.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Angels

    The past two promising offseasons turned into horribly disappointing regular seasons for the Angles, mainly because their rotation has been a mess outside of veterans Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

    Scherzer would give the staff a shot in the arm for 2014, which might help the Angels finally live up to all those expectations that came along with signing big names like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. And certainly, owner Arte Moreno wouldn't mind handing Scherzer another one of his big, fat checks, which might be a requisite to get this one done.

     

Cincinnati Reds

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    The Proposal

    2B Brandon Phillips, C Devin Mesoraco and RHP J.J. Hoover for Scherzer

     

    Why It Could Work for the Tigers

    This would cover three spots—second base, catcher and bullpen—in one swoop, which is just the sort of transaction Dombrowski tends to target.

    Phillips is getting up in age at 32, but he's well-priced at $50 million over the next four years and remains one of the better all-around second baseman in the game (aside from not being down with OBP). Teaming him with shortstop Jose Iglesias would give Detroit one of the best defensive middle infields around.

    Mesoraco, on the other hand, is more of an upside play as a 25-year-old former top prospect who's never really been given a shot in Cincy. His righty bat would allow the Tigers to avoid using Avila against southpaws.

    Hoover, 26, is a competent seventh- or eighth-inning reliever.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Reds 

    There's been plenty of speculation that Phillips isn't long for Cincinnati after a few problems cropped up during the season, as Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes. If he's more or less on his way out, the Reds could do well in getting a big-time starting pitcher like Scherzer in exchange.

    Like the Tigers, Cincy is tailored to win now. They've made it to October three of the past four seasons but failed to advance each time, in large part because injuries and/or ineffectiveness has hindered the rotation at the wrong time.

    With Scherzer as the bona fide No. 1—at less money than free agent Bronson Arroyo made in 2013—alongside fellow righties Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey, the Reds would have a staff that rivals the current Detroit one (with Scherzer still in it, that is). That's a recipe for postseason success.

Baltimore Orioles

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    The Proposal

    C Matt Wieters, RHP Tommy Hunter and INF Jonathan Schoop for Scherzer

     

    Why It Could Work for the Tigers

    A switch-hitting catcher in the prime of his career? Yes, please. The 27-year-old Wieters is a quality defender behind the dish and brings more offensive upside than incumbent Alex Avila.

    In fact, the duo might make for quite a productive platoon: For his career, Wieters struggles against right-handers (.702 OPS) but beats up lefties (.831 OPS), while Avila does just the opposite (.629 OPS against LHP but .809 OPS versus RHP).

    Wieters in line for another raise in his second round of arbitration, which could bring his 2014 salary close to $8 million, and he would be under the Tigers' control for two more years at somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million total. Not bad.

    But let's be honest, Wieters hasn't yet realized his full potential—he hit just .235/.287/.417 this past season—so Detroit would need more to pull the trigger. That's where Hunter, who's become a solid setup option after failing to cut it as a starter, and Schoop, a 22-year-old infield prospect who may soon be ready at second after a cup of coffee in September, come in.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Orioles 

    Early reports from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports indicate that Wieters—another Boras client—is unlikely to sign an extension with Baltimore anyway, so the Orioles might consider getting used to life without their former first-rounder sooner rather than later.

    To do so, Baltimore would have to turn to free agency, and names like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski or even Carlos Ruiz might work as reasonably cheap one- or two-year options.

    With Scherzer in tow, the O's would have that No. 1 starter they've long sought, and they wouldn't miss Wieters' presence in the lineup much, considering they already have one of the most potent offenses in baseball.

Washington Nationals

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    The Proposal

    2B Anthony Rendon, C Wilson Ramos and RHP Drew Storen for Scherzer

     

    Why It Could Work for the Tigers

    If they pulled this off, the Tigers would be getting much younger and a lot cheaper, as none of Rendon, Ramos or Storen is older than 26, and all three are under team control for at least three more years.

    Better yet, each player would address an area of concern on Detroit's roster, with Rendon—the sixth overall pick in 2011—manning second base, Ramos pairing with Avila at catcher and Storen getting a chance to regain some of his former-closer luster.

    If there's a risk here, it's that while all three have upside, not one is a headliner at the moment.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Nationals

    Washington would probably hem and haw at giving up so many seasons in return for potentially just one from Scherzer, but they're after frontline starting pitching and Scherzer in particular, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com.

    The Nats would have to look to the market to replace Ramos, but they could always consider giving Danny Espinosa another shot at second base if Rendon is out of the picture. At the very least, he would offer solid defense and prevent the team from having to spend further in free agency.

    Plus, would any of that really matter with a front four of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez? They might be able to get by with a backboard behind home plate to return pitches.

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