A dizzying trade deadline saw the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers pull off the biggest whopper of them all.
The Dodgers acquired three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and All-Star shortstop Trea Turner, finalizing the deal for the dynamic duo from the Washington Nationals shortly before Friday's cutoff for making swaps.
Scherzer — an eight-time All-Star — joins a deep and talented pitching staff that includes Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, David Price and more. Turner adds even more punch to a lineup that includes Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger.
“Elation,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I was very excited. Obviously, very, very accomplished, very consistent, very good ballplayers. They enhance our club tremendously.”
Now the star-studded group will take aim at winning a tight NL West race that includes two other deep and talented teams — the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres.
Washington acquired a pair of rookies, right-hander Josiah Gray and catcher Keibert Ruiz, and two minor leaguers, righty Gerardo Carrillo and outfielder Donovan Casey.
The Nationals, who have fallen out of playoff contention, made several trades in 24 hours to dismantle a roster that won the World Series in 2019 over the Houston Astros.
“When I took a step back and made that look, I didn’t see a path to be a World Series caliber team this year, so I felt it was time to take a step sideways to allow us to take a step forward and get back to where we’re supposed to be, which is a championship-caliber organization,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.
Scherzer had been given permission to speak to the Dodgers to see if he would waive his right to veto any trade, a power he had as a 10-year veteran who has been with his team for at least five years.
The deal came with the Dodgers three games behind NL West-leading San Francisco. Los Angeles owns the top spot in the wild-card race, 2 1/2 games ahead of San Diego. The Giants were busy at the trade deadline as well, adding four-time All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant from the Cubs.
There had been speculation on Thursday that the division-rival San Diego Padres would be the winners in the Scherzer sweepstakes.
Instead, the Dodgers got real busy. They made a trade early in the day for longtime Kansas City left-handed starter Danny Duffy, then closed in on Scherzer, the biggest prize in this deadline frenzy.
The Nationals were equally active, dealing away several players that helped push the team to the 2019 title.
“Without Max and Trea, we never would have brought the World Series trophy back to the nation’s capital and had that joyous parade down Constitution Avenue,” Nationals owner Mark Lerner said in a statement. “The Nationals organization is forever grateful for their excellence on the field and exemplary leadership in the clubhouse."
Scherzer is 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 19 starts this season, and also started the All-Star Game for the National League this month. He posted a win for the Nationals on Thursday, when he pitched six innings of one-run ball at Philadelphia in the first game of a doubleheader.
Scherzer has a $35 million salary in the final season of a $210 million, seven-year contract and can become a free agent after the World Series. No doubt, the Dodgers are looking right now at how far they can go this year with Mad Max on their side.
The 37-year-old righty is a fierce competitor, often stalking around the mound in-between pitches, firing up himself and his teammates.
Scherzer is 183-97 — including two no-hitters — in a 14-year career with Arizona, Detroit and Washington. He signed a the big contract with the Nationals with the goal of winning a World Series, and he helped bring the franchise its first championship in 2019,
Scherzer got a no-decision when he started Game 7 of the title-clincher in Houston. He is 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA in postseason play.
While the Nationals were expected to deal Scherzer, Turner was more of a surprise. He's a force all over the field, batting .322 with 18 home runs and 49 RBIs, along with 21 stolen bases.
Turner is currently out of action after testing positive for COVID-19. He singled and scored in the first inning at Philadelphia on Tuesday night, then was pulled from the game.
The 28-year-old was All-Star for the first time this season. He tied a major league record by hitting for the cycle for the third time in his career, doing it last month on his birthday.
Turner is a career .300 hitter in seven seasons who also has started in center field and second base in the majors. That would certainly appeal to the Dodgers, who employ a lot of versatile players. He is earning $13 million this season, is eligible for arbitration next winter and can become a free agent after the 2022 World Series.
“The Dodgers specifically were very intrigued with having him for more than a rental player,” Rizzo said.
Corey Seager was the World Series MVP last year as the Dodgers shortstop. He was activiated from the injured list on Friday after missing more than two months with a broken right hand after getting hit by a pitch on May 15. Roberts said he would have conversations with Turner about his role.
“There’s nothing on the baseball field he can’t do,” Roberts said. “He can beat you in so many ways.”
Roberts said the team hopes to get Turner back from the COVID-19 injured list sometime next week. Scherzer and Duffy should join the team on Saturday. Roberts said the initial plan is that Scherzer will make his first start on Wednesday.
Scherzer could take the spot in the Los Angeles rotation that Trevor Bauer held. MLB and the players’ union put Bauer on administrative leave on July 2 under the sport’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.
Police and MLB are investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against the pitcher, and his leave has been extended through Aug. 6.
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