The Washington Nationals suffered another soul-crushing loss on Monday night, and now find themselves at 45-54 and 8.5 games back of the Mets in the NL East.
With the Nationals destined to be sellers with three days to go before the July 30 trade deadline, they have a high-priced ace in Max Scherzer, who is playing on the final year of his seven-year, $210 million deal.
So, could Scherzer actually be in play, as a trade target for the Mets?
While SNY's Andy Martino said the Mets plan to inquire about Scherzer's availability, it is hard to see the Nationals sending their ace to a division rival, plus he has a no-trade clause.
However, Scherzer is by-far the best starting pitcher on the market, and would certainly put the Mets over the top, solidifying them as World Series contenders.
And Mets general manager Zack Scott might have left the door open on Monday when he said he would have no issue trading within the division.
“I don’t have any problem dealing within our division,” Scott said to reporters on Monday. “Some other teams may feel differently -- I have no idea. We have to look at what's best for the club, both short- and long-term. And sometimes dealing within the division is the way to do that.”
In this case, dealing within the division for a piece like Scherzer would be best for the Mets in the short-term, but not necessarily in the long-term. At the same time, the 37-year-old has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the course of the last decade, and he is having another stellar season in 2021. Across 18 starts, Scherzer has gone 7-4 with a 2.83 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 105 innings.
Although Scott would have no problem making a trade within the NL East, he did say he anticipates a "division tax" to come along with a deal. This could drive an already high price for Scherzer, even higher.
As owner Steve Cohen has previously said, if the Mets are going to exceed the $210 million luxury tax threshold, they will likely blow past it. And acquiring Scherzer would do just that, as he is currently making $27 million this year (Mets would pay him around $13.5 million), while the Mets stand at $201 million against the luxury tax.
At this point, trading for Scherzer seems unlikely. The Mets would have to go all-out for him in order to bring him to Queens, in the form of giving up multiple top prospects.
The right-hander is a rental player that would cost a haul, which wouldn't be wise for the Mets, who have said they are going to make moves while weighing both the short and long-term.
Trading for Scherzer would go against that philosophy, and overpaying for a rental starting pitcher does not make much sense. The team can better use their assets elsewhere to add another depth starter at a much lower cost, along with a bat and/or a reliever.
Maybe getting a bat like Kris Bryant, who the Mets have been linked to, could be their big splurge, or if they do decide on a top of the rotation starter, Jose Berrios is another name who could still be in the cards and has another year of control.
But they should not overpay within their division to acquire Scherzer just because he is the best starter available on the trade market. There are different avenues the Mets can go in order to propel the team into a deep postseason run.