There is one player that St. Louis Cardinals fans have pined and drooled over for years and he could be available this July. Is it smart move though?
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying already that this article is going to garner a fair amount of opposition. That’s fine, I’m the monkey with the keyboard speaking into the void right now so I get to talk and if you want to comment your heart out go ahead. I’ll just go ahead and say it: I don’t think there much room for a smart way to get Max Scherzer in a St. Louis Cardinals jersey in 2019.
Before the 2015 season, Max Scherzer was a free agent and as the story goes, the then 30-year-old native St. Louisan was interested in playing for the hometown team but at the time John Mozeliak wouldn’t cough up the money for the ace.
Since then, Scherzer has been an All-Star all four years and won two Cy Young awards. He has also averaged 220 innings a season with a 2.72 ERA.
I think that can be classified as a pretty clear miss.
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Skip forward to 2019 and despite a strong offseason and a stellar young outfield, the Nats currently sit at 31-37 which is good for 8.5 games out of first place in a tough NL East. This has led to speculation that at some point this summer, the Nats could look to move their ace for a mini-sell to reload for next year.
After Mo wouldn’t beat the Nationals offer of seven years/$210M, the question becomes, is he going to pay the price for the ace now?
I have a better question: should he?
The thought is very attractive. In the last three years, he finished first, first, then second in Cy Young voting and hasn’t shown any signs of decline this year at age 34.
The problem is that if the Cardinals trade for him, they will be getting the rest of this year and then his age 35 and 36 seasons. If anyone is going to ward off decline, it’s going to be Mad Max, but still, there is some worry there with the recent decline we have seen from Adam Wainwright over similar ages. I’m not putting either of them on the same level obviously, but there is some recent worry about what could happen.
The second problem is the contract attached to those two years. Over the rest of his contract, Scherzer is still owed $84.3M (not counting the rest of this year).
The situation that I keep going back to in my head is imagining a large regression that leads to him being the Cardinals worst starter but highest cap hit. Again, if anyone is going to avoid this situation it’s Scherzer but the possibility remains even when there haven’t been signs of decline so far.
The third strike against Scherzer is the cost to acquire him. In a recent article from Bleacher Report, Jacob Shafer wrote that the Cardinals potential package for Scherzer would have to be Nolan Gorman, Dylan Carlson and a high upside arm like Connor Jones.
Right off the bat, this hurts, which trading for a player like Scherzer is going to have to do. There’s no way to look at it and be happy with what the Cardinals would have to give up and I may be a homer for disagreeing with that package. Many people would see that and say, “yeah that hurts, but it’s Scherzer…”
I look at that and say, “That’s our future down the drain.”
Gorman and Carlson are both already top 100 prospects in baseball (32 and 97) which sounds about like what it would take, but I believe both of those players are key parts of the future of the team.
Teams have hemorrhaged their future for the present before and it has worked out, but given the entire body of work from John Mozeliak, I would be stunned if he pulled the trigger on those guys.
I would also be surprised if the Nationals took that package.
Carlson may never be as good as some of us imagine he will be, but he will be ready to go at the Majors in the next year and a half or so. The Nats simply don’t have the need for him and wouldn’t value him as high.
The question also remains about how much of Scherzer’s contract the Cardinals would be comfortable picking up. If they take on all $84.3M, the prospect load may not have to be as high as what Bleacher Report suggests, but the rule always applies, the more money you take on, the fewer prospects you need to give up and vice versa.
There are plenty of packages that the Cardinals could draw up but I would bet the first name the Nats would demand is Gorman, which I could stomach. They may also call for a young major league starter like Dakota Hudson.
No matter what the Nationals ask for, Cardinals fans would probably be a little sick to their stomachs.
Scherzer would be the undoubted ace of a starting staff that just hasn’t been good. I get that the St. Louis Cardinals are “all in for 2019,” but I can’t imagine they’d be fine giving up their entire future for a player so costly and so old.
There is a very small area in there somewhere that I believe the cost in dollars and prospects would hurt just the right amount to make the risk for Scherzer worth it, but that is a very small spot.
More than likely, the Nationals are going to want more prospects than to unload the contract which makes me pull back even more. Some of you will be on the “whatever it takes” bandwagon for Scherzer, some may share my view, and some may be so nihilistic about this year that they believe the Cardinals won’t do a deal like this because they won’t have any chance even with Scherzer leading their rotation.
At the end of the day, that’s why Mo gets paid millions of dollars; to weigh all this out. Whatever is supposed to happen will happen, but if you ask me right now, I don’t think the risk or price is worth it. He missed once, will he miss again?