Talking with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal this week, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo dismissed any talk of the team potentially trading staff ace Max Scherzer, telling the bow-tied reporter, “[w]e’re certainly not thinking about that right now.” Resist the urge to jump on that “right now” as reason to believe that the Nationals might actually deal the 34-year-old right-hander, even though Scherzer will, “... gain full no-trade protection as a 10-and-5 player – 10 years of service, five consecutively with the same club,” after this season ends, something Rosenthal mentions in discussing the possibility.
“We control the best pitcher in baseball for 2 1/2 more years – three playoff runs,” Rizzo added.
“He’s extremely well-priced. If you look at his contract, he’s extremely, extremely well-priced. We would have to command something that would be franchise-altering to consider moving him.”
Rosenthal notes in the article that Scherzer is still owed, “the second $7.5 million portion of a $15 million payout for this season, plus $15 million in both 2020 and ‘21,” and, ‘[h]e will receive additional $15 million payments, deferred without interest, from ‘22 to ‘28,” and the yearly hit, for payroll/luxury tax threshold purposes, is $30M based on the average annual value of the 7-year/$210M deal the pitcher signed with the Nationals in January of 2015.
Scherzer didn’t get a no-trade clause in his contract, but at the end of the season, as Rosenthal noted, he will have full no-trade protection.
“If the Nats are to trade him,” Rosenthal suggests, “... their best chance would be within the next 6 1/2 weeks, before Scherzer gains control of the process,” though the Nationals don’t currently see themselves as being out of the race for a postseason berth. But if that should change in the weeks leading up to the July 31st trade deadline?
That would increase the likelihood, Rosenthal suggests, of the Nationals entertaining offers for the likes of their ace, their closer, Sean Doolittle (who has another club option for $6.5M for 2020), and third baseman Anthony Rendon, who’s set to hit free agency this winter if the Nats don’t get him signed to a long-term extension before then.
What’s the latest on Rendon?
Rizzo reiterated in a May 22nd appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies that the two sides have continued to talk, and Rendon, “is a guy that we drafted, developed, signed, and watched turn into a star in front of our eyes. He’s a guy that we would like to have long-term, we’re certainly going to be aggressive and try to make that happen, and hopefully it will.”
Rizzo told Rosenthal this week that the Nationals and Rendon continue to talk, and, “[w]e’ve gone back and forth with offers and counter-proposals fairly recently,” though The Athletic’s reporter notes that were they to trade the 29-year-old infielder, the “... return in a trade for Rendon almost certainly would beat the draft pick the Nats would receive if he left as a free agent, though, he suggests, “... it would not necessarily be a game changer,” considering, for example, the return the Baltimore Orioles got when they traded Manny Machado to LA, and the fact that Rendon, like Machado last year, is a rental.
Rizzo drafted Scherzer while serving as the Scouting Director in Arizona in 2006, and then signed him to a massive free agent deal.
He drafted Rendon and oversaw the infielder’s development as he turned into one of the top position players in the game.
Will that history cloud Rizzo’s judgement going into the deadline? Will he put aside the personal and do what he thinks is right for the franchise going forward whether that’s keeping or trading away pieces if the right deal is there?
What sort of reaction would there be from the fan base if the Nationals were to trade Max Scherzer, who currently has a 2.81 ERA, a 2.27 FIP, 20 walks (1.81 BB/9), and 136 Ks (12.32 K/9) in 15 starts and 99 1⁄3 IP, or let Anthony Rendon (.321/.415/.660, 19 doubles, 16 homers, 3.1 fWAR this season) walk, a year after Bryce Harper left as a free agent?
The next six weeks will present difficult challenges for the General Manager, and there will be no shortage of opinions and takes, hot and otherwise, on which direction Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office should go...