Dodgers Expected To Acquire Max Scherzer, Trea Turner

9:01 pm: The Dodgers are assuming the entirety of Turner’s remaining salary, as well as the money owed to Scherzer for the remainder of the 2021 season, reports Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (on Twitter).

8:25 pm: Gerardo Carrillo is the final player involved, reports Jim Bowden of the Athletic (Twitter link).

8:06 pm: Outfield prospect Donovan Casey is also involved in the deal, according to Rosenthal, who reports that one more minor leaguer is expected to be included.

7:50 pm: Scherzer is willing to waive his no-trade right to facilitate a deal to Los Angeles, reports Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

7:44 pm: Dodgers starter Josiah Gray is believed to be part of discussions between the teams, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). Meanwhile, the Padres appear to be “moving on” from their hopes of landing Scherzer, according to Acee.

7:27 pm: Catching prospect Keibert Ruiz would be part of the Nationals’ return if the deal is completed, reports Rosenthal.

7:14 pm: The Dodgers are making significant progress on a deal to acquire stars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic echoes Passan’s report but adds that “hurdles remain” in getting the deal across the finish line. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests the Padres — reported to be on the verge of a Scherzer acquisition this afternoon — are now pessimistic about their chances of landing the three-time Cy Young award winner.

It’s a stunning development, one that would have massive repercussions in the National League playoff race. Scherzer and Turner are arguably the top two players on the trade market. The Dodgers acquiring both in a package deal — just a few hours after their division rivals had been expected to land Scherzer — would be a league-altering move if the deal is pushed across the finish line.

Scherzer is one of the best pitchers of his generation, and the future Hall of Famer has continued to pitch at a level close to peak form. He’s tossed 111 innings across nineteen starts, working to a 2.76 ERA/3.59 FIP. He’s given up a few home runs (1.46 HR/9), but Scherzer’s strikeout and walk numbers are still among the game’s best. The eight-time All-Star has punched out 34.3% of batters faced while handing out free passes to a meager 6.5% of opponents. Among starters with 50+ innings pitched, only Jacob deGromTyler GlasnowPatrick Sandoval and Shane Bieber have generated swinging strikes at a higher clip than Scherzer’s 16.5% mark.

It’s the continuation of what has been a remarkable tenure in Washington. Signed to a seven-year, $210MM deal over the 2014-15 offseason, the right-hander entered today’s outing with a 2.80 ERA/2.91 FIP across 1223 innings for the Nats. It proved to be one of the most successful free agent investments in recent memory. Scherzer won back-to-back NL Cy Young awards in 2016-17. He was selected to the All-Star game six times, with the lone exception due to the cancelation of last year’s festivities. And Scherzer was integral to the Nationals’ 2019 World Series title, tossing 30 frames of 2.40 ERA ball during that year’s postseason run.

Scherzer would join a rotation that already includes Walker Buehler and is expected to soon welcome back Clayton Kershaw from the injured list. That trio would make for an incredible top three in any playoff series, to say nothing of the presence of David Price and Tony Gonsolin as options for a fourth game and/or bullpen work.

Of course, the Dodgers still need to solidify their chances of making a division series for that top of the rotation to mean much. They’re almost certain to make the playoffs in some capacity, but the Giants somewhat surprisingly remain three games up on L.A. in the NL West race. The competition at the top of the division from San Francisco and the Padres could leave the Dodgers staring down a one-game playoff in the Wild Card game. Acquiring Scherzer would give Los Angeles another ace to potentially start that game, while also increasing their odds of winning the division and avoiding the contest altogether.

Incredibly, Scherzer’s likely the second-most valuable part of the Dodgers’ potential haul. While he’s slated to hit free agency at the end of this season, Turner’s controllable next season via arbitration. The 28-year-old has been a quality player since breaking into the big leagues in 2015, but he’s developed into a true superstar over the past couple seasons. Since the start of the 2020 campaign, Turner’s hitting .327/.378/.546 (145 wRC+) with 30 home runs and 33 stolen bases across 155 games and 679 plate appearances.

Turner’s one of the top few players in the sport, even if he rather remarkably didn’t make an All-Star team until this season. In addition to that high-end offense, he’s one of the game’s most dangerous baserunners and a fine defensive shortstop. FanGraphs estimates Turner’s been worth seven wins above replacement over the past two years, a mark that trails only Fernando Tatís Jr. among position players.

A good portion of Turner’s overall value comes from his aforementioned ability to play shortstop. It’s not precisely clear whether he’d continue to do so in Los Angeles, though, where Corey Seager is also one of the game’s stars. Turner also has some experience manning second base and in center field, and the Dodgers have never been shy about moving players around the diamond defensively.

Seager is slated to hit free agency at the end of this season, where he’ll be one of the top options on the open market. The Dodgers could move Turner around the diamond for the remainder of this season and plug him as their regular shortstop come 2022 if Seager signs elsewhere. Regardless of their long-term vision, it’s unquestionable that adding Turner to the roster will be a massive boon to a position player group that is already among the league’s best. Seager has missed two months after fracturing his hand, but he’s expected to return to the lineup before Turner, who landed on the injured list this week after testing positive for COVID-19 in what’ll be his final game as a National.

Unsurprisingly, adding two of the game’s best players will cost quite a bit — both financially and from a talent perspective. Scherzer playing out the year on a significant $35MM salary, a little less than $12MM of which remains to be paid. That money is entirely deferred until 2028, part of a broader trend throughout the term of his deal. While Scherzer is an impending free agent, he’ll still be owed $15MM every year from 2022-28 in deferrals. It’s not precisely clear how the Nationals and Dodgers will divide those payments (assuming the trade is completed), although the majority of those obligations will likely be paid by the Nationals.

Turner, meanwhile, is making $13MM in his penultimate year of arbitration. Around $4.5MM of that remains to be paid, with Turner’s luxury tax number equaling that amount. He’ll surely be entitled to a sizable raise this winter during his final trip through the arb process.

The luxury tax is relevant for the Dodgers but apparently not much of a deterrent. Before today’s acquisitions, Los Angeles had a competitive balance tax hit of just under $265MM, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That places them in the highest bracket, with Los Angeles subject to a 62.5% tax on any dollars spent over $260MM. Ownership is apparently willing to continue to take on financial obligations in service of constructing a super-team. The defending World Series champions were arguably the most talented team in MLB already, and they’ve added (or are set to add) Scherzer, Turner and Danny Duffy to that loaded roster.

To make that happen, Los Angeles has parted with a couple of baseball’s most talented prospects. Ruiz has seemingly been on top prospect lists forever, but he’s still just 23 years old. He’s picked up 15 MLB plate appearances over the past two seasons, but he’d likely have accrued far more playing time in most other organizations.

With Will Smith entrenched as the Dodgers’ current and long-term catcher, there simply hasn’t been much opportunity for Ruiz. That said, the switch-hitting backstop has certainly earned a major league look. He’s performed well at basically every minor league stop, and that’s continued in 2021. Ruiz is hitting a massive .311/.381/.631 with 16 home runs across 231 plate appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Baseball America just ranked Ruiz the game’s #16 overall minor league talent in their midseason top 100 update, lauding his elite bat-to-ball skills and suggesting he’s a solid enough defender to stick behind the plate. It’s not unreasonable to expect Ruiz to settle in as an above-average or All-Star catcher, thanks to his rare offensive upside for the position. Ruiz is already on the 40-man roster and would seem to be a big league caliber option for the Nats as soon as this season.

Gray wasn’t too far behind Ruiz on that list, checking in at 56th overall and second in the Los Angeles system. He draws praise for his fastball-slider combination and fantastic athleticism, which allows him to throws strikes at a strong rate. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs slotted Gray as the sport’s #29 prospect entering the season (he’s up to 21st following other players’ graduations), calling him a likely “mid-rotation stalwart” at his peak.

The 23-year-old made his major league debut last week and has pitched in a pair of big league games. Gray spent the rest of the year with Triple-A Oklahoma City, although an injured list stint caused him to miss a fair amount of time. He tossed 15 2/3 innings of 2.87 ERA ball at the minors’ highest level before his promotion, his first crack at Triple-A.

Neither Ruiz nor Gray will accrue enough big league time to reach a full year of service in 2021. They won’t reach free agency until after the 2027 season and aren’t likely to qualify for arbitration until the 2024-25 offseason. Both players have the opportunity to be long-term stalwarts in D.C., with many potential Gray-Ruiz batteries over the coming years.

Like Ruiz and Gray, Carrillo is already on the 40-man roster. He was selected last winter to keep him from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, but he hasn’t yet appeared in the majors. Carrillo has spent the entire season with Double-A Tulsa, tossing 59 1/3 innings of 4.25 ERA ball. The 22-year-old righty has struck out a strong 26.2% of batters faced this season but he’s walked an alarming 10.9% of opponents.

Both BA and Longenhagen suggest Carrillo’s lack of control is likely to eventually push him to the bullpen, but his mid-90’s sinker and power breaking ball could suit him quite well in such a role. Longenhagen slots Carrillo ninth among Nationals prospects if the trade is completed.

Casey will also need to be added to the 40-man roster or left exposed to the Rule 5 draft. The former 20th-round pick (2017) isn’t seen as a particularly strong prospect, but he’s having a quality season in a pitcher-friendly Double-A environment. The 25-year-old is hitting .296/.362/.462 with 11 home runs across 334 plate appearances in Tulsa this season. Casey has seen action at all three outfield positions this year.

More to come.

Published at Fri, 30 Jul 2021 02:01:59 +0000

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