The Nationals are still evaluating trade offers for ace Max Scherzer, with the Padres having put forth a package of prospects that might be enough but other contenders still attempting to top it, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Despite a late-afternoon report by The Athletic that general manager Mike Rizzo was close to a deal with San Diego, sources said nothing has been finalized yet and a handful of other clubs remain in contention. Complicating matters is the fact any deal agreed upon by Rizzo must still be approved by Nationals ownership and by Scherzer himself, who has the right to veto any trade because he has been a major leaguer for more than 10 years, the last five with the same club.
Scherzer is not expected to block a move to any of the three National League West contenders, according to another source familiar with the right-hander's thinking, but he still does need to formally sign off on a proposal before it's officially done.
It's not yet known who the Nationals would get in return in the proposed trade with the Padres, but given the serious interest in acquiring the three-time Cy Young Award winner from several clubs, Rizzo is in an advantageous position to try to play opposing GMs against each other.
There's also a question of finances, given Scherzer's unique contract structure. The Nats are responsible for the $15 million he's owed this season, no matter what, because it comes out of the $50 million signing bonus that was included in his seven-year, $210 million contract. But an acquiring team would be responsible for approximately $12 million of the $35 million in deferred money Scherzer will still be owed in 2028 (unless the Nationals agree to pick up some of that money themselves).
Regardless, it has become clear Scherzer's time in D.C. is about to end. And it will have ended with his 92nd regular-season win in a Nationals uniform earlier this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, where he held the Phillies to one run over six strong innings in a 3-1 victory in a seven-inning doubleheader.
Speaking to reporters on Zoom a few minutes after that game ended, Scherzer said he had no idea yet what would be coming next but did convey a realization a trade would be coming before Friday's 4 p.m. deadline.
"Yeah, I mean, I'm a human. I get it," he said. "I understand what's going on. It just is what it is. The game of baseball can throw so many curveballs at you. I've never been in this situation in my career, going through all the hoopla right now. But today was just a chance, a good challenge, and you have to block all that out, go out there and just compete."
If this is the end of his time with the Nationals, Scherzer will have gone 92-47 with a 2.80 ERA, 0.962 WHIP and 1,610 strikeouts in 1,229 innings across 189 regular season starts. He posted a sub-3.00 ERA in six of his seven seasons, the lone exception the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. He never went on the injured list with an arm ailment. And his ERA (2.76) and WHIP (0.892) in the final year of his contract were better than his overall numbers over the length of the deal.
Scherzer's signature moments also included two no-hitters in 2015, a 20-strikeout performance in 2016, several gutsy starts when he wasn't 100 percent healthy and, of course, the 2019 postseason, capped by his Game 7 start in the World Series.
"I don't want to look at this as a negative thing, I really look at it as positive thing," he said. "I signed a seven-year deal here to win a World Series. And we won. We won a World Series. That's a lifelong dream come true."
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