Before the beginning of the 2023 season, almost everyone had the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets penciled in as playoff teams. In fact, I'm willing to bet most people would have written that in pen.
For as disappointing of a season as the Cardinals have had, it's hard not to look at the Mets as the biggest trainwreck in baseball this year. The Mets have an MLB-record payroll this season, yet sit at 16.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and 8.5 games back of the third Wild Card spot. It's hard to see a way for the Mets to dig themselves out of the hole they are in.
While I doubt owner Steve Cohen sends this team into a full-on rebuild, they do have eyes set on acquiring Shohei Ohtani in the offseason and could look to reshape their roster for 2024 while freeing up salary to offer Ohtani the mega-deal that he'll be looking for.
Why the Cardinals could consider a Max Scherzer trade
After starting the year a little slow, Scherzer is 4-0 in his last 7 starts with a 3.35 ERA while striking out 50 batters. He's 38 years old with a $43 million player option for 2024, making him a controllable arm for a team that wants to compete in 2024.
Enter the Cardinals.
Depending on where the Cardinals are in the standings come late July, Scherzer could help boost their chances at a playoff push this year while also giving them a frontline starter for the 2024 season. Due to his hefty contract for next season, I don't think it would take moving heaven and earth to acquire him either.
Surely the Cardinals would want the Mets to eat some of his contract to get a deal done. Let's say the Mets are willing to eat half of his money for 2024, would a package like Tyler O'Neill and Giovanny Gallegos be an attractive swap for the Mets? Would Scherzer waive his no-trade clause?
It's hard to access what Scherzer's trade value is, but surely the Mets will want guys who can help them out in 2024 as well. Gallegos can pair with Edwin Diaz to form an elite bullpen duo next year, and O'Neill could provide some high-upside offense to a lineup that is underachieving.
The reason I throw this kind of deal out there is not to say that I believe Scherzer to be the best answer for this rotation, but I do think exploring moves like this is what the Cardinals need to do at this deadline. They have to be creative in finding ways to upgrade their rotation for next year, whether that's a guy like Scherzer or other controllable arms.