It might not work. It could be too soon.
After all, Max Scherzer leaving the Nationals midseason for the Mets would be like Elaine Benes dumping Jerry for Newman.
By golly, though, the Mets owe it to themselves to try. Because is there an image more tantalizing right now than Jacob deGrom starting an October series opener and Scherzer going in Game 2?
So the Mets should offer the Nats any player not currently on their major league roster. They should offer Scherzer, the impending free agent, an extension in return for joining them. They should view Washington’s recent plummet as the next opportunity to change their organization’s culture.
Scherzer, who turns 37 on Tuesday, is closing out his seven-year, $210 million contract with characteristic brilliance. Don’t blame him for the Nationals’ problems. He owns a 2.83 ERA in 18 starts totaling 103 innings, with 142 strikeouts against 25 walks, and a look under the hood (at exit velocities and the like) largely affirms his 2021 excellence, even as it also shows that he’s no longer the dynamo who won the 2016 and 2017 National League Cy Young awards for the Nationals. He missed his last start with right triceps discomfort but is scheduled to start later this week.
Take his present value and add his past postseason experience, and there’s no other player on this trade market who can similarly 1) energize the Mets’ clubhouse; 2) fire up their fan base; and 3) help the Mets achieve their goal of winning it all.
For this, yes, I’d trade one of Francisco Alvarez, or Brett Baty, or Ronny Mauricio to headline a package, an indication of the Mets’ seriousness to the Nationals, who are not a natural trade partner given the two clubs’ residence in the NL East.
Mets general manager Zack Scott, asked Monday about making intra-division trades, said, “I don’t have any problem dealing within our division. … There are times, I’ve had experiences in my past, where I’ve seen teams within the same division have an in-division tax associated with the trade. It’s not clear whether that is the case now. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is for some players. I don’t think we should be afraid to make moves that improve our club.”
You’d expect the Nats to impose such a tax on the Mets, given that Washington almost certainly won’t look at a full teardown. The Mets should be willing to pay it as long as it’s not outrageous (which would be an ask for two of the top three prospects).
Then there’s Scherzer himself, who controls his destiny thanks to his 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the big leagues, at least five with his current team) and might not want to compromise his bond with the Nats and their fans by reporting to Citi Field.
“That’s a variable that can complicate things at times,” Scott said generally of no-trade protection. “For any player that has no-trade protection, that’s an issue that we need to be mindful of, that could be a challenge. In some cases you don’t have to go too far down the road before you know that they’re just not going to waive it, so we don’t spend much time on it.”
It would be surprising if Scherzer and his agent Scott Boras passed altogether on a conversation with Scott and his bosses Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson, if for no other reason than to make introductions and gather information for this coming offseason. If the right-hander is open to conversations about an extension, then by all means the Mets — with Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard coming off the books — should offer one for a short term (two years?) and a high salary ($35 million per year?).
The Mets should go all-out because they have a team capable of winning the World Series now and a group of guys that has grinded through a blizzard of injuries to earn the reward of a second ace. With Stroman a free agent this winter and deGrom’s multiple injury-list stays creating concerns about his long-term viability, the stars might not align similarly next season.
That’s right, the Mets should exhibit Max effort in trying to land Scherzer.