Well, this sucks. This really, really, really sucks.
After months of endless speculation and trade rumors, the seemingly inevitable has happened – Max Scherzer and Trea Turner have been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Nationals receive a hefty prospect haul–C Keibert Ruiz, P Josiah Gray, P Gerardo Carrillo, and OF Donovan Casey. Scherzday is now an observed holiday in LA rather than in Washington. The face of the franchise and the greatest player in Nationals history, alongside the team’s most consistent bat, are no longer Nats, and it stings more than I thought it would.
This trade shakes up all of baseball. In what was considered by many to be the Nats’ final year to compete for a world championship, underperformance and a cruel injury bug led the Nats to sell some of their impending free agents at the trade deadline. Max Scherzer, the greatest pitcher of the 2010s, was nearly certain to go. Some of the key pieces of the core, like relievers Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson, had teams buzzing with interest. I thought the Trea Turner rumors were just smoke, but here we are.
There was no easy way to say goodbye to Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, but sometimes, baseball has to come before our emotions and love for a certain player. Max is going to be a free agent in the fall, and unless he signs an extension with the Dodgers, he’s still going to be a free agent after the year ends. Given the fact that it’s looking increasingly likely that the Nats will be on the outside looking in come October, it just made too much sense for the Nats to trade Max and Trea to bolster the weakest minor league system in all of baseball. In the end, Scherzer, Turner, Hand, Hudson, Kyle Schwarber, and Yan Gomes were all moved.
And bolster the minor leagues they did. They’ll add Keibert Ruiz, who is ranked #41 on the MLB Top 100 Prospects list but is performing more like a top 20 prospect so far this season. Ruiz is a legitimate superstar-to-be, and will be a stalwart behind the plate for the Nats in the future. Along with Ruiz, the Nats acquired Josiah Gray, the Dodgers #2 prospect and the 42nd ranked prospect league-wide. Gray, who was filling in for the injured Clayton Kershaw on the Dodgers’ roster before the trade to Washington, tore it up in the minor leagues for the past few seasons. Gray joins a future rotation with Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, Cole Henry, and Tim Cate–not bad at all. The two headliners of this truly blockbuster trade can both make an immediate impact in DC, but will likely head to AAA to start their careers in Washington. Carrillo is LA’s #17 prospect, and he has a power fastball that misses a lot of bats. Casey is not listed as one of Los Angeles’s top 30 prospects, but has had a good season in AA this year. He’s a power bat and an outfielder, which the Nationals lacked in their system before the move. All will factor into the Nats’ future plans, and significantly increase the starpower in a previously barren minor league system. The Nats also acquired a Major League ready reliever in Mason Thompson and speedy, raw shortstop Jordy Barley from San Diego for Daniel Hudson, promising young pitcher Aldo Ramirez from Boston for Kyle Schwarber, and catcher Riley Adams from Toronto for Brad Hand.
Losing both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner at the same time is devastating to Nationals fans who longed to see another World Series winning ballclub in Washington in the very near future. Time will tell if this move was worth it, but for now, the Nationals enter a full-on reset that could lead to some rough seasons in the next few years. Yet while Trea was an integral part of the Nats’ core for the past few years and seemed poised to be the future of Washington baseball, it’s losing Max Scherzer that is the most heartbreaking for fans of this team.
Looking back at Max’s time in a Nationals uniform, I realized for the first time how lucky we were as Nationals fans to watch his starts every fifth day. In his first year on the team, he threw two no-hitters (including one that should have been a perfect game, and yes I’m still angry about that). The next year, he tied Kerry Wood’s record for strikeouts in a single game, in his first start against his former team. He was the 2016 and 2017 National League Cy Young award winner, and was a finalist in 2018 and 2019, too. And let’s not forget how dominant he was during the World Series run in 2019. After a rocky outing in the Wild Card game, he shut down the Dodgers in game 4 of the NLDS and, oh yeah, nearly threw another no-hitter in game 2 of the NLCS in his native St. Louis. But it’s his performance in the World Series that really stands out. He didn’t dominate, by any means. But he always kept the Nats in the game. He won a dogfight with Astros ace Gerrit Cole in game 1, and looked ready to face Cole again in a pivotal game 5. I think everyone in the DC area collectively gasped when it was announced that Max was scratched from his start, needing a Cortisone shot to treat a neck problem. It must have been fate that he ended up starting game 7, only giving up two runs and allowing the Nats to come back late in the game en route to the team’s first World Series championship.
Max leaves Washington with two Cy Youngs, two no-hitters, countless franchise records, a World Series ring, and love from every single Nationals fan in the world. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer someday. He will go into the Hall of Fame in a Nationals cap. He might even be the first National ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. And now he’s gone, lending his services to the Dodgers as they make their run down the stretch and into October.
Damn it, they really did it. They traded Max Scherzer.
I remember the day he signed his contract with the Nats. My parents called me downstairs to tell me that Ken Rosenthal had broken the news that Scherzer was close to signing with the Nats, and I was ecstatic. Although I’ve never watched too much AL ball, I knew that what Max was doing with Detroit was special, and couldn’t wait to see him at Nats Park. Reading over my thoughts from that day, I fully realize that his time in Washington was everything that we hoped it would be. Most importantly, we won the World Series, largely thanks to his performance every fifth day. We won the World Series! There’s not anything more you could ask of a superstar than to lead the team to the promised land of October baseball, and he did just that. But he made his mark on the Nationals organization and the DC community, as well. He and his wife Erica became very involved with the Polaris Project, a local non-profit which aims to end human trafficking and other forms of modern-day slavery. Max and Erica helped me out in 2016, when I held a fundraiser for JDRF, an organization very close to my heart. To help me raise money to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, the Scherzers donated memorabilia from the 2015 season to my fundraiser, where I raised thousands of dollars for JDRF. In Max, Erica, and their three children, Los Angeles is getting an excellent ballplayer who will give back to the community.
One line from my original post when Max signed with the Nationals stood out to me – “it’s crazy how much can change in seven years!” I was referring to the fact that Max’s seven year contract was set to expire in 2022, the year I will head off to college (which still feels wild to say), but so much has changed for Nationals fans. We’re 2019’s World Champions thanks to Max and every member of that team. We’ve gotten to watch a future first-ballot Hall of Famer make history with every start, and now that he’s in a different uniform, we get to sit back and watch Max make another run for a deserved second World Series this year. Go Max, but otherwise, screw the Dodgers.
Look, I don’t cry much. Especially over sports. After all, it’s just a game, right? I cried when we won the National League pennant in 2019. I was in a puddle of tears after we won the World Series. And when I was writing this, I cried. When the Nationals signed Max Scherzer, it was a sign that the Nats were no longer the young and hungry upstart in the National League but a team looking to win the World Series as soon as possible. It was a risky decision, but it was ambitious. Max Scherzer made the Nats’ potent starting rotation the best in baseball during the mid-2010s. He led the Nats out of their elementary years as a team and into the franchise’s “adolescence”, and was always a constant throughout my middle and high school years. We went through our lows (game 5 defeats against the Cubs and Dodgers come to mind) and we went through our highs (we won the freaking World Series!), and throughout all of it, Max Scherzer was the rock of our organization.
And to Trea, I’ll admit that this is a rather shocking and premature exit. I thought the Nats were going to build around your tools, but it seems as if Rizzo wasn’t going to come to a contract impasse with you. Maybe playing under the bright lights of Dodger Stadium will help the baseball world understand what we Nats fans know–that you are the greatest shortstop in the league right now. Just like our new Dodger fan friends, we Nats fans are thankful that Mike Rizzo found a way to steal you from the San Diego Padres in the deal that sent Steven Souza to Tampa. It’s hard for me to go through a whole sappy spiel about Trea simply because he wasn’t here for as long. But nobody works harder and enjoys playing the game more than he does, and Trea will be a more-than-welcome addition to the Dodger Stadium infield.
So I guess this is the end of the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner era in Washington. Thank you, Max, for everything. You are a class act, the first ballplayer I ever meaningfully called my favorite, and again, the greatest player in Nationals history. Thank you Trea, for the few but incredible years you spent with us. To Dodgers fans, treat our guys well. Maybe this is the start of a rivalry that had already begun to emerge (and I’m still a little uncomfortable with rooting for y’all), but for the next three months, the mission is clear–go win another ring for all of us here in Washington.