Toronto Blue Jays: Max Scherzer trade all depends on playoff picture

Max Scherzer would fill a massive hole on the Toronto Blue Jays, but are the team’s playoff hopes realistic enough to make a big splash at the trade deadline?

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to diagnose the biggest hole on the Toronto Blue Jays‘ roster. While the bats continue to swing away at a historic pace, the pitching staff has been average at best. Now, with the second half of the season underway and the trade deadline nearing, one big fish could solve this problem.

Max Scherzer is entering into the Tom Brady world of performance for elder statesmen. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is pumping in one of his best seasons at age 36, as he totes a 7-4 record and a 2.83 ERA into the second half of the season.

Unfortunately, his team isn’t doing so hot. The Washington Nationals currently sit in fourth place in the N.L. East, with a 44-49 record. While many of the pieces from their 2019 World Series team remain, the team just hasn’t clicked since winning the Commissioners’ Trophy two seasons ago.

With Scherzer’s seven-year, $191 million deal set to run out at the end of the season, the Nats would be well advised to try and squeeze some profit out of the righthander before he hits free agency. Is a possible trade with the Blue Jays in the cards? Let’s discuss.

High price tag

As previously mentioned, Scherzer is in the midst of a career year. After a 2020 season that saw him post an inflated 3.74 ERA, he has silenced all of his critics with an elite-level season. You’d also be hard-pressed to find a more durable arm, as Scherzer has gone into the sixth inning or later in 12 of his 18 appearances this year.

All of this means that the Nationals’ asking price for their best pitcher in team history will not be cheap. Washington likely won’t be interested in veterans either, as they are squarely looking to build for the future. There are a lot of untouchables in the Blue Jays’ farm system (Austin Martin, Jordan Groshans, Orelvis Martinez, Gabriel Moreno, to name a few), but it’s unlikely that the Nats would be willing to settle for anybody outside the Jays’ organizational top 20. Would the Jays be willing to part with a high-valued prospect, for what could potentially be only a couple months of Scherzer in blue?

More than just a rental?

The Blue Jays’ decision could be made much easier if they could get some verbal commitment from Scherzer that he’d at least be willing to entertain re-signing in Toronto after this season. He wouldn’t need to look far to find a player that benefitted from having faith in the Blue Jays.

Acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the deadline last season, Robbie Ray was also set to become a free agent at the end of the year. However, he enjoyed his time working with Jays pitching coach Pete Walker so much that he re-signed with the team and is in the midst of a career renaissance. If Walker can ingratiate himself to Mad Max, could that entice Scherzer to join what will be a loaded lineup for years to come?

The playoff picture

Of course, the Blue Jays may just feel that they’re too far back in the playoff race and that this isn’t the year to entertain a potential rental deal with a player who will cost them an elite prospect or two like Scherzer. But one doesn’t need to look too far into the past to see where a massive trade deadline jump-started a Blue Jays team and pushed them into the playoffs.

On July 30, 2015, the Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals to move to 52-51. Just before the trade deadline struck, they’d announce that David Price was set to become the newest Blue Jay. This came two days after completing a deal for all-world shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Middling at .500, GM Alex Anthopoulos took a massive risk in buying at a time when most teams would sell. It paid off, as the Blue Jays made a deep playoff run to the ALCS.

Fast-forward to now, and there’s arguably more hope for the 2021 iteration of the Blue Jays than there was for the pre-deadline 2015 squad. The team is above .500, and could get an extra shot in the arm when they return to Rogers Centre on July 30. If Anthopoulos proved one thing with his late-night bartering at the 2015 deadline, it was this: When you’re good, you should make a move to become great, because you never know when your next chance will come around.