Before Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo dealt Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline this past July (in return for pitchers Josiah Gray and Gerardo Carrillo, catcher Keibert Ruiz, and outfielder Donovan Casey), the General Manager and President of Baseball ops in the nation’s capital did what he could, within the limits that were in place, to find the best return for a few months of a three-time Cy Young winner and a year-plus of control of the shortstop.
“We had multiple standalone Scherzer deals that were out there, we had several combined Scherzer/Turner deals, we had Scherzer, Turner, plus deals,” Rizzo said back on July 30th.
“There’s a million renditions of the deal we made. And this one just seemed to be the most appealing to me and just gave us the most impactful prospects, and allowed us to reap the biggest benefits of the trade market.”
Ruiz and Gray were ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively, in LA’s organization at the time of the deal, and both finished the season in the majors after debuting in the big leagues over the last two seasons (Ruiz in 2020 and Gray in the weeks before the deal). Casey, is a mid-20s outfielder who could be up in D.C. at some point in 2022 after he was added to the club’s 40-man roster this fall, and the 23-year-old Carrillo is a highly-regarded prospect who went from the No. 17 prospect in the Dodgers’ system to No. 6 in the Nationals’ system after the trade.
Given Scherzer’s no-trade clause (via 10/5 rights) limited the options available in terms of potential trade partners to teams the 37-year-old would agree to go to, Rizzo did what he could to make the best deal.
“Max’s no-trade clause ... limits the field that you can discuss things [with],” he explained.
“You’re not wasting your time on teams that he’s not going to go to, you know, he’s earned the 10/5 rights, which earns him the right to control his destiny, and more or less tell us what team he wants to play on. I respect that, I couldn’t respect the player more, and he and I were in constant communication, and at the end of the day, we sent him to a team that he wanted to go to, that he accepted to go to, and got the prospect package that we needed to get for two star players like Trea and Max.”
While Scherzer, who has since gone on to sign a free agent deal with the New York Mets, was strictly a rental, Turner’s year-plus of team control before free agency was particularly appealing to the Dodgers and it meant a bigger return in terms of prospects the Nationals finally got in the trade.
“We maximized Trea’s value because of where we’re at as a franchise,” Rizzo told reporters, “... and Trea Turner with two playoff runs in him and one and a half years [of control] is way more valuable than a Trea Turner that’s got one more year before free agency. So that was the biggest reason that went into the decision-making process.
“The Dodgers specifically were very intrigued by a Trea [Turner], having him for more than a rental player ... and I think you saw the prospect package, we benefitted from the prospect package because of the length of the contract that he had left.”
Turner will be back with the Dodgers in 2022. Scherzer tested the market and found a three-year/$130M deal with the Mets. He acknowledged when he was introduced by NY that it will be strange when he faces the Nationals for the first time after seven seasons (a World Series title, two Cy Young awards, and two no-hitters) in D.C.
The veteran said he’s faced former teams before, and he’ll have to go up against his former teammates that remain with the Nats often since he’s back in the NL East.
“Obviously, it would the same to face the Nationals,” Scherzer said in a Zoom call after he’d signed with the Mets.
“That’s going to be a wild experience for myself, but it will be fun to compete against them.
“You look forward to those matchups and facing your friends. Baseball makes you do some crazy things sometimes, and this is just another chapter in it.”
How will Scherzer’s manager between 2018-2021 in D.C., Davey Martinez, think of the now-former Nats’ ace when he looks back on their time together? How would he characterize a pitcher like Max?
“Intense. Every day. Like I’ve said, it wasn’t just every fifth day to watch him compete,” Davey Martinez said after the trade deadline. “That was the easy part, to let him go out there and pitch on his fifth day. But it was everything in-between that you loved about him. The way he worked hard, the way he competed every day, the conversations in the clubhouse, the kind of jokiness and the kidding around that we often had together, I’ll miss that.”