On Thursday afternoon, about 24 hours before the 2021 MLB trade deadline, national reporters suggested that Max Scherzer was headed to San Diego. The prospective trade, which was reportedly “close,” made sense: With the sub-.500 Nationals fading out of the playoff race, Scherzer was the best starting pitcher available, and Padres GM A.J. Preller loves a blockbuster.
By Thursday night, however, Scherzer was reportedly headed to a different NL West contender, and he was bringing a friend, too: The Dodgers are poised to add Scherzer and All-Star shortstop Trea Turner in exchange for four prospects. Essentially, the best pitcher and the best position player likely to change teams at this deadline are both going to the arguable best team in baseball, a defending champion with the most loaded roster in the sport.
“Blockbuster” doesn’t even begin to describe L.A.’s move. This was a trade of Netflix-sized proportions, which sends potentially commensurate ripples through the sport.
Scherzer celebrated his 37th birthday this week, and while his fastball has maybe lost a tick since his prime, he is largely the same ludicrously effective pitcher he’s been while winning three Cy Young awards over the last decade. Compare Scherzer’s statistics through his first six seasons in Washington to 2021, and the only slight difference is a few more home runs surrendered this year:
Scherzer, 2015-20: 2.80 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 33% K, 6% BB, 1.05 HR/9
Scherzer, 2021: 2.76 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 34% K, 7% BB, 1.46 HR/9
Among all pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched this season, Scherzer ranks fifth in strikeout-minus-walk rate, behind only Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes, Gerrit Cole, and Carlos Rodón—one spot ahead of new teammate Clayton Kershaw. He’s not quite the Scherzer of the mid-2010s—he misses starts due to injury now; he won’t win this year’s Cy Young. But he’s just about as close as any pitcher this side of deGrom.