The San Diego Padres are close to a deal to acquire Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports.
In a daunting NL West race with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants — one that will likely land them in a one-game wild-card playoff — the Padres could turn to Scherzer to start that all-important game.
The deal still hinges on Scherzer choosing to waive his no-trade protection and accept the move. After missing a start with a triceps issue, Scherzer demonstrated his health with 6 innings of one-run ball against the Phillies on Thursday.
The three-time Cy Young winner is a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the generation’s best pitchers. He gutted through back problems to help the Nationals win their first World Series in 2019, and will now jump back into a pennant race to complete one of the most fruitful free agent contracts in the history of baseball.
Yes, he turned 37 this week, but Scherzer still breathes fire. His fastball averages over 94 mph and he has MLB’s third-best strikeout rate among qualified pitchers. He’s running a 2.76 ERA.
The combination of Scherzer’s no-trade protection and Washington GM Mike Rizzo’s historical inclination against selling at the deadline had made a Scherzer deal seem extremely unlikely as recently as a week ago.
But in the past few days, more and more signs started pointing to Scherzer moving. His preference for a West Coast contender clearly signaled his eagerness to dive into the three-way tangle of NL West titans.
Padres make big splash in NL West arms race
Padres GM A.J. Preller has earned a reputation as baseball’s most aggressive deadline dealer, and as San Diego sits in third place — but in control of the second NL wild-card spot — he again appears dedicated to making the biggest splash. Boasting an offense full of exciting stars including Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, the Padres’ offseason pitching revamp hasn’t brought them even with the Dodgers or the Giants.
Yu Darvish sports a strong 3.27 ERA, but has struggled mightily in July. Fellow winter acquisition Blake Snell is having the worst year of his career, as evidenced by a career-worst walk rate and 5.44 ERA.
The dynamics of the NL West race only made the chase for an ace more pressing for the Padres. Sitting 5.5 games back of the Giants entering Thursday, FanGraphs gives them only an 11.4% chance of storming back to win the division — and at BetMGM their division odds are up to +450. That means the October run many envisioned for the up-and-coming team would have to go through a one-game playoff, likely against another NL West rival. The Dodgers could throw Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehler in that game, where the Giants would likely trot out Kevin Gausman and his 2.21 ERA.
In addition to securing Scherzer for themselves, the Padres ensure they don’t see Mad Max toeing the mound against them in that game. Scherzer has a 3.38 ERA in 112 postseason innings. His last October performance was a defining one, as he gutted through debilitating back spasms to pitch five innings of two-run ball as the Nationals won Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.
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