Max and Trea to LA:
One doesn’t just trade Max Scherzer. And one doesn’t just include Trea Turner in the deal as well. Yet, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo dealt the three-time Cy Young award winner and the now-former everyday shortstop in D.C. to the Los Angeles Dodgers in advance of the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline on Friday.
The finalized trade sent Scherzer and Turner to LA in return for four prospects, including the top two in the organization, 23-year-old catcher Keibert Ruiz (No. 1), and 23-year-old right-hander Josiah Gray (No. 2), the No. 17 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Dodgers’ top prospects, 22-year-old right-hand pitcher Gerardo Carillo, and Donovan Casey, a 25-year-old outfielder.
We’ll get to Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez’s takes on Ruiz and Gray in a moment, but first, how did the GM in the nation’s capital decide to deal both Scherzer and Turner?
“Those are things that involved our strategy, our global view of the trade market and that type of thing,” Rizzo sort-of explained.
“It’s a lot of trial and error, it’s a million phone calls for each idea you have and each trade proposal you make, and sometimes things fall into place, you get other ideas from general managers. It’s all about communication and preparation, and when you feel you have an opportunity you seize it.”
The Washington Nationals have acquired...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 30, 2021
• C - Keibert Ruiz
• RHP - Josiah Gray
• RHP - Gerardo Carrillo
• OF - Donovan Casey
...from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for RHP Max Scherzer and SS Trea Turner.
// https://t.co/tamHmiiYSm pic.twitter.com/1M21IYe6ou
The opportunity that presented itself this week, was to deal Scherzer, in the final year of his 7-year/$210M deal with the Nationals, and Turner, who was under team control through the 2022 season.
“We had multiple standalone Scherzer deals that were out there, we had several combined Scherzer/Turner deals, we had Scherzer/Turner-plus deals, there’s a million renditions of the deal we made,” Rizzo said, “... 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.”
The Nationals were also, Rizzo acknowledged, somewhat limited in the teams they could try to work out a deal with by Scherzer’s no-trade clause and 10/5 rights.
“Max’s no-trade clause also limits the field that you can discuss things [with],” Rizzo said.
“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.”
Turner being included in any deal was something of a surprise, after the Nationals tried to work out a long-term deal with him over the last few years, but if they were going to trade him, it’s understandable why they would do it now, when he’s more valuable to other teams.
“We maximized Trea’s value because of where we’re at as a franchise, and Trea Turner with two playoff runs in him and one and a half years 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,” Rizzo said.
“The Dodgers specifically were very intrigued by a Trea — 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.”
Ruiz and Gray From LA:
Keibert Ruiz, 23, “... is the top prospect in Los Angeles’s minor league system and the No. 16 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America,” the Nationals noted in a press release on the return they got from the Dodgers in the six-player deal.
“[Ruiz] hit .311 with 18 doubles, 16 homers, 45 RBI, 23 walks, 27 strikeouts and 39 runs scored in 52 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City this season. Ruiz led the Dodgers’ system and ranked among all of Minor League Baseball (full season) in slugging percentage (6th, .631) and OPS (10th, 1.012).”
Josiah Gray, also 23, “.. is the №2 prospect in Los Angeles’s Minor League system according to MLBPipeline.com and the №4 prospect according to Baseball America,” the Nats noted.
“He is the №42 prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com and the №59 prospect according to Baseball America.
“In four starts this season for Triple-A Oklahoma City, Gray is 1–1 with a 2.87 ERA. He has 22 strikeouts and two walks allowed in 15.2 innings pitched.”
Both the switch-hitting catcher and right-handed starter have debuted in the majors, Ruiz in 2020 (and he’s been up with LA this season), and Gray earlier this season.
Will they be up with the Nationals at some point soon?
“We’ll see,” Davey Martinez said on Friday afternoon. “They’re going to get here and they’re going to get their feet wet and probably start off at Triple-A. We haven’t talked about it yet, we just want to get them here. I’m looking forward to watching them play a little bit and then we’ll make decisions on when they’ll come up here, but those are two guys that we feel like are close, whether we see them here this year, or soon, or September, that’s a decision that Mike [Rizzo] and I will sit down and make here in the near future.”
“I think they’re big league-ready players,” Rizzo said. “They’ve proven themselves at the minor league level, we think they’re impactful type of players. I think it — not only did we get a very talented, impactful player [in Ruiz], we got that at a position that we really needed it. It’s one of the key positions in all of baseball, and like when we acquired Wilson Ramos in a trade, you could see what that particular position had, and the impact that position can do for a baseball team, and I think that he was a focal point of what we were trying to do at the trade deadline, and we identified him, and he was the main cog that we were trying to get.
“And Jo-Jo Gray is a terrific young prospect, he’s got great stuff and a terrific pitcher and he’s a guy that we should see very soon if not right away in the big leagues. He’s big league ready, he was a starting pitcher on a championship-caliber club with the Dodgers, and I think he’ll come over here and just continue to improve and make himself into one of the elite starting pitchers in the game.”
What About Juan Soto?:
Juan Soto just watched a lot of long-time teammates get dealt, and once the dust cleared and their lockers were cleaned out, he found himself surrounded by a significantly altered roster in the Nationals’ clubhouse. Did anyone explain what the organization was thinking?
“I talked to him in Philly, actually,” Davey Martinez said, referring to the final stop on the last road trip, “... and told him that he just has to keep his head up and keep playing.
“He’s the guy now that this organization is going to follow. So he just has to keep going out there and keep grinding his at bats like he always does, and play good defense, run the bases the way he’s supposed to run them and stay positive and he understands that.”
Is the long-rumored, long-term deal to keep Soto in D.C. going to come to fruition now, with the team clearly viewing him as “the guy” as Martinez said?
“I like to say we have a long-term deal with him now,” Rizzo cringe-inducingly said.
“It’s a three-year, long-term deal, so that’s a good thing to have excellent player on your team for three years. Honestly, Soto is a benchmark type of player, he’s the core of our team, and we would be remiss if we didn’t aggressively try to sign him long-term. I think that it’s an important part of what our plan is, and ... when this trading class and the last couple of draft classes and trading seasons come together, these people will be the core of that world championship-caliber club with Juan Soto as our lynchpin, and he’s as important a part of this franchise as anybody.”