Dodgers complete blockbuster for Max, Trea

July 31st, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- After Thursday’s game against the Giants, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, with a grin, that he knew president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his staff were “grinding” to find trades that would improve their current roster.

That, somehow, is turning out to be an understatement.

The Dodgers shocked the baseball world, completing a deal on Friday that will send right-hander Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner to Los Angeles in exchange for top pitching prospect Josiah Gray, top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz, right-hander Gerardo Carrillo and outfielder Donovan Casey.

Dodgers get: RHP Max Scherzer, SS Trea Turner
Nationals get: C Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline); RHP Josiah Gray (No. 2); RHP Gerardo Carrillo (No. 17); OF Donovan Casey (unranked)

According to Elias, when Scherzer takes the mound on Wednesday against the Astros at Dodger Stadium, it will be the first time in Major League history that four Cy Young Award winners appear for the same team in a single season.

“Really excited about adding two impact-type players like Trea and Max,” Friedman said on Friday. “We wanted to be aggressive and add some impact-type talent. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but fortunately this time we were able to line it up.”

Friedman said the last few days have been a “frenzy” and produced a lot of “ups and downs.” On Wednesday morning, the Dodgers felt like they had a good chance at landing both Turner and Scherzer. Later that night, Friedman said he didn’t think they had a chance for both and were going to focus on just adding Scherzer. But by Thursday morning, talks intensified again and the two sides were able to come up with an agreement.

Ruiz and Gray were the Dodgers’ top two prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, but that’s the price L.A. had to pay to land two of the best players at their respective positions in Scherzer and Turner.

Scherzer, who is 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA this season, will give the Dodgers the starter they’ve coveted. He will join a rotation that features Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw, who is expected to be activated from the injured list in early August.

The Dodgers also have David Price, Tony Gonsolin and left-hander Danny Duffy, whom they acquired from the Royals earlier on Thursday. Once all are healthy, one of those three will have to move to the bullpen, giving the Dodgers even more depth than they had when they entered Spring Training with eight starting options.

“I thought it was a high priority,” Roberts said about adding another top starter. “I thought going into this Trade Deadline, we collectively felt that was a top priority for us to move the needle to give us the best chance to win the World Series in 2021. Acquiring a three-time Cy Young Award winner and arguably one of the best players in baseball, certainly moves the needle.”

There were some questions surrounding Scherzer’s health, but he put those to rest on Thursday, allowing one run over six innings against the Phillies. Scherzer also has plenty of postseason experience, going 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 22 appearances (18 starts). Most notably, he battled through neck spasms and allowed just two runs over five innings in the Game 7 win over the Astros in the 2019 World Series.

“He’s on the Mount Rushmore of pitchers in terms of what he’s done in the regular season, what he’s done in the playoffs,” Friedman said. “Adding him to our mix creates a lot of rotation depth and options that we feel like are going to be important to help navigate the rest of this regular season.”

Not only did the Dodgers improve by adding Scherzer, they were also able to keep him from joining the Giants or Padres. Both NL West rivals expressed heavy interest, and the Padres came close to acquiring him earlier on Thursday, which “spooked” Friedman. However, Friedman said that their main goal was to add another frontline starter and not steal the right-hander away from the other two teams, though he added that it did provide an added bonus. 

Scherzer is in the final season of a seven-year, $210 million deal. The entirety of his $35 million salary this year is deferred, interest free, as it was in each of the past two seasons. That said, Scherzer’s salary does count toward the Competitive Balance Tax, a $210 million threshold the Dodgers largely exceeded even before adding the right-hander, and their payroll now sits at around $270 million. 

“From our standpoint, we’re always going to be aggressive to try and win,” Friedman said. “I think [owner] Mark Walter has demonstrated that at every turn.”

While Scherzer was an obvious target considering the holes in their rotation, adding Turner was an unexpected move. But the Dodgers saw it as an opportunity to add yet another star player to the core group.

Turner has been one of the most valuable players in baseball this season with a 4.1 bWAR. He’s also one of the best-hitting shortstops in the Majors, batting .322 with 18 homers and 49 RBIs this season. To go along with that, Turner is one of baseball’s fastest players and has 192 career stolen bases. He, along with Mookie Betts, gives the Dodgers plenty of threats on the bases.

“He’s a dynamic player,” Friedman said. “He contributes in all aspects of the game and we’re really excited about adding a right-handed bat as dynamic as he is. [Roberts] will have fun trying to figure out where to slot him in the lineup, but adding him and the length he creates in our lineup, the speed he adds, is something that we’ve been lacking the last five, six, seven years.”

While Roberts will certainly enjoy writing Turner’s name in the lineup, the Dodgers are going to need to figure out where he will play defensively. Shortstop Corey Seager returned from injury on Friday, and he will handle most of the responsibilities at the position, especially until Turner is able to return to the team whenever he’s eligible to come off the COVID-19 IL. 

Friedman called both Seager and Turner “premier shortstops,” but there can only be one. Turner has the ability to play second base and center field, but the Dodgers won’t get into specifics on where he’ll play, not until they have a face-to-face conversation with their new shortstop. 

Adding Turner, who has another year of arbitration in 2022 before he becomes a free agent in 2023, also creates an interesting decision with Seager, who is an unrestricted free agent this winter. 

Having too many good players is a great problem to have for the Dodgers, who took a huge step in the direction of defending their World Series title.