Top Potential Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Nationals Star Max Scherzer
The Washington Nationals are languishing in fourth place in the National League East. Needless to say, the post-Bryce Harper era has not started with a bang.
So, is it time for the Nats to trade right-hander Max Scherzer?
The 34-year-old three-time Cy Young Award winner is enjoying a typically superlative season with a 2.83 ERA and an NL-leading 126 strikeouts in 92.1 innings. He's also being paid $37.4 million this season and is owed $35.9 million in 2020 and $34.5 million in 2021, per Spotrac.
Trading Scherzer would be a painful, white-flag-waving concession for the Nats. But given their place in the standings and his top-shelf performance, now might be the time to move him.
With that in mind, here are a half-dozen logical suitors and the packages Washington could demand in return for one of this generation's greatest pitchers.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels are struggling to keep their heads above water in the American League West and are desperate to get Mike Trout onto the postseason stage after signing him to a record-breaking extension.
A major reason for the Halos' ho-hum performance? A starting staff that ranks dead last in the Junior Circuit with a 5.54 ERA.
Scherzer would help reverse their fortunes and give them the dominant ace they sorely lack.
To land him, the Angels would likely have to part with prized outfield prospect Jo Adell, plus a few ancillary pieces such as hard-throwing right-handers Chris Rodriguez and Jose Soriano.
It would be a significant hit to a farm system that Bleacher Report ranks 21st in MLB, but the Angels can't afford to keep wasting Trout's prime.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox's rotation ranks 19th in baseball with a 4.56 ERA. Ace lefty Chris Sale appears to have righted the ship after a disastrous start to 2019, but the defending champs could use more starting pitching as they sit in third place in the AL East.
Unfortunately, they have the game's 30th-ranked farm system.
To pry Scherzer away from the nation's capital, they'd likely need to decimate the top rung of their prospect ladder and offer a package including infielder Triston Casas, outfielder Jarren Duran and right-hander Bryan Mata.
That's three of their top four MiLB chips by B/R's estimation. Such is the cost of acquiring a game-changing ace.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are hanging on the fringes of the NL playoff picture and are mired in third place in the NL Central. Not coincidentally, their starting staff ranks 15th with a mediocre 4.36 ERA.
Scherzer would instantly make the Cards a threat to the Milwaukee Brewers and archrival Chicago Cubs, the division's top two teams.
To acquire Scherzer, St. Louis would likely have to part with third baseman and top prospect Nolan Gorman. But Gorman is temporarily blocked at the hot corner by Matt Carpenter, who's signed at least through 2021 with a vesting option for 2022.
In addition, the Cardinals would need to sweeten the deal with outfielder Dylan Carlson, who has posted an .899 OPS at Double-A, and a high-upside arm such as right-hander Connor Jones.
The Brewers are in a dogfight with the Cubs for first place in the NL Central with the Cardinals lurking. Troublingly, their starting rotation ranks 20th with a 4.67 ERA and lacks a postseason-tested ace.
To acquire Scherzer, the Brew Crew could offer second baseman and top prospect Keston Hiura, who looked MLB-ready during a 17-game debut with Milwaukee before he was sent down to clear room on the 25-man roster for Travis Shaw.
Add shortstop and No. 2 prospect Brice Turang and toolsy outfielder Corey Ray, and Scherzer could help Milwaukee vault past last season's National League Championship Series Game 7 finish.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres are in fourth place in the NL West, but they entered play Thursday only two games under .500. With superstar third baseman Manny Machado on board and homegrown players such as shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. emerging, the Friars have a shot to win soon, if not this year.
Scherzer could propel them over the top, especially when throwing his home games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
The Pads could part with left-hander MacKenzie Gore, their No. 2 prospect, and infielder Luis Urias, who is blocked on the left side by Machado and Tatis.
It would ding their No. 1-ranked farm system, but it would also make them instant and legitimate contenders.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees' rotation sports a 4.06 ERA. Ace Luis Severino is working his way back from a lat strain. They whiffed on free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel.
Despite all of that, they're battling for supremacy in the AL East.
It's time for them to get aggressive and act like the Yankees.
Their No. 20-ranked farm system isn't what it used to be, but they could build a package around high-upside right-handers Deivi Garcia and Luis Gil and toss in 18-year-old outfielder Antonio Cabello, who boasts five-tool potential.
It's a steep cost. But the possibility of Scherzer in pinstripes is too enticing to pass up.
All statistics and contract information current as of Thursday and courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.