We are now only two days away from the MLB trade deadline, which is set for 1 p.m. PT on Friday. The biggest name on the market connected to the Dodgers seems to be three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
Scherzer turned 37 on Tuesday, but remains a highly-effective pitcher, sporting a 2.83 ERA and 3.47 FIP in his 18 starts, with 142 strikeouts and a 35-percent strikeout rate that tops any current Dodgers starter, outside of Josiah Gray’s impressive 37-percent K rate in his first two major league games.
The Dodgers, Giants, and Padres are among the eight teams reportedly known to be in on Scherzer, per Jayson Stark of The Athletic, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the three-team race atop the National League West. Jon Heyman of MLB Network notes those three teams are on Scherzer’s wish list, noting the pitcher “is said more about the ability to win this year and going forward (he’d like a team he could stay with) than geography.”
A source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that Scherzer “strongly prefers the west coast.”
Late Tuesday night, Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic echoed Scherzer’s preference for the west coast, also noting that trade talks were accelerating and “the Nationals, interested executives say, want to get a deal in place as quickly as possible” in order to give Scherzer more time to decide whether to accept the trade.
Offshore gambling outlets have weighed in on Scherzer’s next team if he’s traded. BetOnline has the Dodgers at 7/2 odds to acquire the right-hander, while SportsBetting.ag has the same odds for Los Angeles. Both have the Dodgers as the second-most-likely to land Scherzer, with both sites having the Mets as 3/1 favorites.
However, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported that the Mets are moving forward as if Scherzer, who can reject any trade since he has 10 years of major league experience, including the last five-plus with the Nationals, won’t accept a trade to New York. Heyman also reported that it is unlikely Scherzer would approve a trade to the Mets.
Scherzer was scratched from his start last Saturday with triceps discomfort, and his upcoming Thursday start remains in question.
An interesting wrinkle in acquiring Scherzer is his contract, which calls for a $35 million salary in 2021. If acquired on Friday morning, for instance, a team would be on the hook for roughly $12.2 million. But all of Scherzer’s salaries from 2019-21 are deferred into annual payments from 2022-28.
In other words, a team wouldn’t have to pay Scherzer this year, but Rosenthal explained the competitive balance tax implications:
The acquiring team would not catch a similar break in its luxury-tax payroll, which is based on players’ average annual salaries. The luxury-tax hit would be approximately $10 million, a figure that might discourage some clubs.
The Dodgers were already projected to land in the highest tier of competitive balance tax this season, a figure that could get reduced with a Trevor Bauer suspension. But acquiring Scherzer essentially keeps the Dodgers in, or very near, that upper tier.
It’s basically now a waiting game for Scherzer suitors. While I don’t necessarily think Dave Roberts selecting Max Scherzer to start the All-Star Game will be a deciding factor, it probably rates as a more tangible lure as teams looking to acquire Yonder Alonso before his brother-in-law Manny Machado became a free agent as a lure.
Maybe Roberts can select Scherzer’s next start, too.