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Rays Trade Candidate: Max Scherzer

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Seriously.

Tampa Bay Rays v. Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

Let’s start beating this drum right now.

As April begins to sift the good teams from the bad, trade candidates will start to arise. It’s too early to say definitively, when playoff teams like the Yankees, Twins, and Astros are in last place of their respective divisions after 2.5 weeks of play, but some teams are surely taking long hard looks in the mirror and wondering what’s next.

Those teams may have been easy to predict from the jump, like the Diamondbacks or the Rockies, but at 7-9 on the season it seems the Nationals may already feel their season slipping away, per mlb.com’s Mark Feinsand:

Washington’s injury woes — Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg are both on the injured list — and underperforming rotation have some wondering if the Nationals would look to deal Scherzer this summer if the season went awry.

“He’s been such a force, he’s almost in a better spot than Verlander was in 2017, because Verlander wasn’t pitching this well for the Tigers for the two years leading up to that Deadline,” an American League executive said. “Those two carry the same kind of fire-breathing impact at the top of a rotation.”

Scherzer, who is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season, has full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player, giving him the power to control his destiny between now and the July 30 Trade Deadline. He’ll turn 37 in July, so the idea of joining a contender if the Nationals are out of the postseason race doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

“Max is a competitor,” said a source close to Scherzer. “If he thinks he has a chance to win, I think he would be open to several scenarios.”

Max Scherzer... available for trade?

I probably don’t need to explain to you why Max Scherzer, even at age-37, is one of the best pitchers on the planet. Through four starts, he has a 1.80 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 4 walks in 25 innings pitched. A likely first ballot hall of fame player, his becoming available for trade is bananas to even contemplate, and for the money he’ll be cheap:

“Scherzer is earning $35 million this season, so a team acquiring him in late-July would have to take on about $12 million of the contract.”

The Rays are in a transition year, and through the first three weeks have allowed the most runs of any team in baseball. They’ve won in spite of this by staying top-five in runs scored, but the quality of the Rays piecemeal rotation is clearly up for debate. And yes, while there are certainly many colts in Triple-A waiting to join the stable, they are untested when it comes to performing at the highest level.

Feinsand’s early trade candidates are the Angels, Athletics, Cardinals, Giants, and Yankees. You can read his article for the logic behind each, but Lord have mercy the Rays belong on that list.

Do you want to return to the World Series? It’s hard to imagine a better bet to be made with $12 million than on a half season of Max Scherzer.

The Rays have enormous financial flexibility and the deepest farm system in baseball. If they’re in the hunt in July, and Scherzer is performing well, it’s baseball malpractice to not make a pursuit.