Nats deal Max, Trea to LA for 4 prospects

July 30th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were at the center of a blockbuster deal on Friday, sending ace Max Scherzer and All-Star shortstop Trea Turner to the Dodgers in exchange for Los Angeles' top two prospects, among others.

The prospect-laden return package includes catcher Keibert Ruiz (No. 41 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline) and right-hander Josiah Gray (No. 42). The Nationals also received right-hander Gerardo Carrillo (the Dodgers' No. 17 prospect) and outfielder Donovan Casey.

“Without Max and Trea, we never would have brought the World Series trophy back to the nation’s capital and had that joyous parade down Constitution Avenue,” Nationals managing principal owner Mark D. Lerner said. “The Nationals organization is forever grateful for their excellence on the field and exemplary leadership in the clubhouse, and we wish them both nothing but the best in the next chapter of their careers.”

One of the more disciplined hitters in the Minors, Ruiz has a .311/.381/.631 slash line with 16 homers in 52 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City this season. Gray, meanwhile, has a fastball that ranges from 92-97 mph, as well as a power slider and a curveball. The athletic 23-year-old righty made his MLB debut on July 20.

Carrillo has gone 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 15 games (14 starts) in Double-A this season. Also in Double-A, Casey hit .296 with 89 hits (tied for sixth in all of the Minors), 36 RBIs, 11 home runs, 15 doubles, 51 runs and 15 stolen bases.

“Not by any means is this organization going to give in,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We're going to rebuild -- and build to win. And I hate using that word ‘rebuild.’ I mean, we're going to compete every day.”

Though Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said as recently as July 20 that he didn't "foresee" trading away Scherzer or Turner, the Nationals proceeded to lose five of their next six games. After splitting a doubleheader, the Nats (47-55) remained eight games under .500 and 7 1/2 back of the first-place Mets in the National League East heading into the Trade Deadline.

“There’s no shame in having to take a step back, refocus, reboot and start the process again -- and that’s what we’re preparing to do,” Rizzo said. “We felt that looking at our talent base in the big leagues, after all the COVID situations, the injury situations and the performance on the field, that it was time to take a step back, reboot this thing and build us another championship-caliber baseball team.”

That made Scherzer, who is in the final year of his contract, a prime trade candidate. He's 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA over 19 starts this season. He also looked like his usual self in Thursday's Game 1 victory against the Phillies, tossing six innings of one-run ball after being scratched from his scheduled start against the Orioles last Saturday due to some minor right triceps discomfort. He struck out five and walked three while throwing 88 pitches (56 strikes).

“I think I speak for Nationals fans everywhere when I say that it has been the highest privilege to watch him give everything he has on the mound every fifth day, pitching through anything and everything to help our team win,” Lerner said. “I have said many times that he is the greatest competitor I have ever had the pleasure of watching.”

As for Turner, he's under team control through 2022. He has approximately $4.8 million remaining on this year’s $13 million salary and he's arbitration-eligible next season. A first-time All-Star this year, Turner has spent each of his first seven big league seasons with the Nats after being acquired from the Padres on June 14, 2015, as the player to be named in the December 2014 three-team trade that also involved the Rays.

“He was a beloved player in the clubhouse; I loved him myself,” Rizzo said. “We’d maximized Trea’s value because of where we’re at as a franchise. Trea Turner with two playoff runs in him and one-and-a-half years is way more valuable than a Trea Turner that’s got one year before free agency. That was the biggest reason that went into the decision making process. The Dodgers specifically were very intrigued by Trea, having him for more than a rental player. … We benefited from the prospect package because of the length of the contract that he had left.”

Turner was placed on the injured list on Thursday after departing Tuesday's game when the Nationals were informed that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He's hitting .322 this season with 18 home runs -- one shy of his career high -- and 21 stolen bases. Turner is one of two players with at least 15 homers and 20 stolen bases this season (Fernando Tatis Jr. is the other).

“Trea’s electric combination of speed and power brought so much excitement to games at Nationals Park, and the three games in which he hit for the cycle will always live in Nationals lore,” Lerner said.

Scherzer, as a player with at least 10 years of MLB service, including five consecutive with the Nationals, had to waive his no-trade rights for the deal to go through. Rizzo said he was in constant communication with Scherzer as trade talks transpired, which included several variations of the final deal.

“At the end of the day, we sent him to a team that he wanted to go to, that he accepted to go to and [we] got the prospect package that we needed to get for two star players like Trea and Max,” said Rizzo.

Scherzer, who turned 37 on Tuesday, spent the last seven seasons with Washington after signing a seven-year, $210 million contract in January 2015. Given what unfolded over the next six-and-a-half seasons, Scherzer's deal will go down as one of the best free-agent signings in MLB history.

He rewarded the franchise by winning back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2016 and '17 (he also won the '13 American League Cy Young Award with the Tigers). Of course, the pinnacle came in '19 when he helped guide the Nats to their first World Series title.

"I don't want to look at this as a negative thing, I'd rather look at this as a positive thing," Scherzer said. "Look, I signed a seven-year deal here and we won a World Series. That's the first thing I said when I signed is, 'I'm here to win.' And we won. We won a World Series. That's a lifelong dream come true and something I'll always be so proud of with these guys here to be able to win a World Series and be part of a championship team. Looking forward to reunions and stuff like that.”

Overall, Scherzer went 92-47 with a 2.80 ERA over 189 starts for the Nationals. His 1,610 strikeouts in a Nats uniform are easily the most by any big league pitcher since 2015 (Gerrit Cole is second with 1,368). Scherzer's strikeout total is also the third best in franchise history, trailing only Stephen Strasburg (1,718) and Steve Rogers (1,621).

Scherzer's 92 wins rank fourth in Nationals/Expos history, while he sits atop the franchise leaderboard in strikeouts per nine (11.8), WHIP (0.96), strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.8) and ERA+ (151).

"For me, this is where kind of my family started. I came here without kids, now I've got three kids. I watched my girls kind of grow up here," Scherzer said. "It's been a very fun experience for me, being in D.C. And the fans, what can you say about the fans? That's where that championship will always mean something to all of us. We'll always have that and we'll always have that flag."

As for what the future may hold when he hits free agency this winter, Scherzer said he hasn't quite thought about what will be at the top of his wish list.

"That's a tough question to answer. I don't know how to answer that right now, when you're in the thick of it in the middle of a season, trying to think about 2022," Scherzer said. "I've always said this: I live start to start, I put the blinders up, I just go out there and compete. And when the time is necessary to think about the future, the time's necessary to do that off the field."