It’s no secret that the Mets’ front office is desperate for help in beefing up its injury-plagued starting rotation — but the answer to the Amazin’s prayers might be found in our nation’s Capitol.
No, we don’t mean a disaster declaration from President Biden. We mean three-time Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals.
Citing “league sources,” SNY’s Andy Martino reported that the Mets are inquiring about the availability of Scherzer, who’s having a solid season for the fourth-place Washington Nationals and started the All-Star Game for the National League two weeks ago.
The Mets have had 16 different pitchers start games for them this season, with newly-acquired Rich Hill making Sunday’s start against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Mets have been rumored to eye a number of veteran starting pitchers as the July 31 trade deadline nears, including Kyle Gibson of the Texas Rangers and Kyle Hendricks or Zach Davies of the Chicago Cubs.
Inquiring is one thing; getting a deal done is another. And other baseball executives are very skeptical that the Mets and Nationals will reach a deal, Martino reported. Some doubt that Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo would be willing to trade with a division rival.
Another stumbling block could be Scherzer himself; he has a no-trade clause, and would need to approve any proposed trade before it’s finalized.
Entering Monday’s action, the Nationals sit eight games under .500, eight games behind the first-place Mets and 9 1/2 games behind the San Diego Padres for the second wild card spot in the National League. With the trade deadline approaching Saturday, it figures the Nationals would be selling this year rather than buying for a possible playoff run.
Scherzer’s 37 years of age, but showing no signs of slowing down. He’s struck out 142 batters in 105 innings pitched this year, with a 2.83 ERA and a ridiculous 0.89 WHIP. He skipped his last start with triceps discomfort, according to Martino, but tests came back clean.
But Scherzer is in the final year of his contract, and will hit free agency in the offseason, meaning that the Nationals might be better served flipping him for a prospect or two at the trade deadline.
Renting a three-time Cy Young Award winner to pitch alongside a healthy Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman for a possible world championship run is the stuff Mets fans’ dreams are made of. But is it plausible?
The Mets have plenty to offer the Nationals in the minor leagues. The most expendable prospect they have figures to be Ronny Mauricio, the double-A shortstop who’s potentially blocked by Francisco Lindor for the next decade.
The Nationals may also clamor for at least one of the top five prospects in the Mets farm system, including slugging catcher Francisco Alvarez, pitcher Matt Allan and third baseman Brett Baty.
But earlier this month, acting Mets General Manager Zack Scott gave hints that he isn’t too willing to mortgage the future, and deal some of the team’s biggest prospects, for a player likely to be with the organization for just a couple of months.
At a press conference Monday, Scott underscored those remarks while also noting that “there’s still a focus on upgrading the team any way we can,” especially by adding “more depth in starting pitching.”
As for possibly trading with a division rival, Scott is keeping an open mind, though he mentioned previous trades in recent history that came with an “in-division tax,” meaning a higher-than-normal asking price from some general managers.
“I don’t have any problem dealing within our division,” he said. “We always have to look at what’s best for the club in the short- and long-term. … I don’t think we should be afraid to make improvements to our club.”
The Mets also need more than just a starting pitcher at the deadline. Recent struggles in the bullpen could be relieved with the addition of another arm or two, and the Mets are also looking at possibly upgrading their position on the hot corner, as the rumor mill has linked them to the Cubs for a possible trade for Kris Bryant.
The Nationals are weak at third base, with veteran utility man Josh Harrison currently manning the spot — so there’s little help for the Mets there. But they do have closer Brad Hand, a left-handed stopper with 20 saves and 40 strikeouts in 40.1 innings pitched this season, who’s also in his walk year.
If the Mets balk at possibly overpaying for Scherzer alone, they might be more enticed to pull the trigger if the Nationals agree to lend them a Hand.