It's not often a pitcher the caliber of Max Scherzer is available at the trade deadline.
Even at 37 years old, the three-time Cy Young winner is still one of the game's elite pitchers, boasting a 2.83 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 105 innings in the final season of a seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals.
With a 5-16 record in July entering Tuesday, the Nationals have slipped out of the National League East race, and they are poised to at least sell off their expiring contracts, with Scherzer atop that list.
The unique nature of his contract, which features significant deferred money and no actual salary for the 2022 season, will be one hurdle in any deal for Scherzer. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic provided some details:
"The acquiring team would be responsible for the remainder of Scherzer’s $35 million salary for 2021 — about one-third. And that amount, because it is deferred entirely until ’28, would be valued at less than it is now. The acquiring team would not catch a similar break in its luxury-tax payroll, which is based on players' average annual salaries. The luxury-tax hit would be approximately $10 million, a figure that might discourage some clubs."
There is also the matter of Scherzer's 10-and-5 rights, which would allow him to block any trade, though he is open to waiving those no-trade rights with the caveat of preferring a West Coast team, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
That makes the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants obvious potential landing spots, but teams outside the West Coast should not be ruled out entirely. The Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays are also part of the sweepstakes, based on a mix of speculation and recent reports.
Ahead we've provided all the latest rumors and a hypothetical trade proposal for each of those six contenders to swing a deal for Max Scherzer ahead of the deadline.
Before we get started, here are a few recent deadline deals for rental aces to provide some context for what fair return value might look like for the Washington Nationals:
2012 Deadline: Zack Greinke traded from Brewers to Angels
Return Package: SS Jean Segura (No. 55 MLB prospect, No. 2 LAA prospect), RHP Johnny Hellweg (No. 4 LAA prospect), RHP Ariel Pena (No. 9 LAA prospect)
2015 Deadline: David Price traded from Tigers to Blue Jays
Return Package: LHP Daniel Norris (No. 18 MLB prospect, No. 1 TOR prospect), LHP Jairo Labourt (No. 13 TOR prospect), LHP Matthew Boyd (No. 29 TOR prospect)
2015 Deadline: Johnny Cueto traded from Reds to Royals
Return Package: LHP Brandon Finnegan (No. 55 MLB prospect, No. 2 KC prospect), LHP John Lamb (former Top 100 prospect), LHP Cody Reed (future Top 100 prospect)
2017 Deadline: Yu Darvish traded from Rangers to Dodgers
Return Package: OF Willie Calhoun (No. 92 MLB prospect, No. 5 LAD prospect), RHP A.J. Alexy, OF Brendon Davis
Boston Red Sox
To BOS: RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Daniel Hudson
To WAS: RHP Tanner Houck, RHP Brayan Bello, IF Cameron Cannon, RHP Eduard Bazardo
The Boston Red Sox are putting a lot of eggs in the Chris Sale basket if they don't land another quality starter at the trade deadline.
Slugger Triston Casas should be untouchable in trade talks this summer, and it's also unlikely second baseman of the future Jeter Downs will be available for a two-month rental, so that means the Red Sox will need to get creative.
Would they be willing to use controllable right-hander Tanner Houck as a centerpiece?