The Washington Nationals haven't officially thrown in the towel on the 2019 season, and it doesn't seem like they really want to. But, Anthony Rendon will be a free agent at season's end, and with the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies pumped full of young talent and at the top of the division, they might need to take steps backwards in order to move forwards down the road.
One player that could bring back a haul who still has a couple years of club control left is Nats' ace Max Scherzer. Renowned as one of the best pitchers in the game, the 34-year-old could be on the move at the deadline, and here are three teams that may force Washington's hand.
3. Houston Astros
Astros receive: RHP Max Scherzer
Nationals receive: RHP Forrest Whitley, OF Kyle Tucker
Before Houston Astros fans slam this, just really think about it. First off, Houston is trying to win now and grab another championship, so why wouldn't they want to acquire Max Scherzer and load up their rotation?
Secondly, while Whitley and Tucker are two of the best prospects in the sport, there isn't a clear spot for Tucker in the crowded outfield after Yordan Alvarez earned his call-up, and Whitley, despite the lofty expectations, underperformed massively at Triple-A this year and won't be called up to the 'Stros in 2019.
While parting ways with two of baseball's Top 10 prospects, landing Max Scherzer would instantly make Houston's rotation the strongest in the league.
2. San Diego Padres
Padres receive: RHP Max Scherzer
Nationals receive: OF Hunter Renfroe, C Francisco Mejia, INF Luis Urías, LHP Logan Allen, RHP Michel Baez
If you want premier young talent in return, then go to the top farm system in the game. The Padres are on the verge of contending, and it would only be expedited if they added Max Scherzer to sit at the top of their rotation.
Renfroe's power bat could be a nice boost for Washington, considering he's still 27. Francisco Mejia is highly-regarded catching prospect, but Austin Hedges' defensive excellence has made it hard for Mejia to sniff the field. Luis Urías can flat hit and would be a nice up-the-middle partner with Trea Turner.
Logan Allen and Michel Baez are both Top 100 prospects, and could become extremely valuable assets to a Nats' rebuild.
1. New York Yankees
Yankees receive: RHP Max Scherzer
Nationals receive: OF Clint Frazier, OF Estevan Florial, 3B Miguel Andújar, RHP Garrett Whitlock, RHP Chance Adams
There's no way the Nationals would trade within the division with the Atlanta Braves, so the next best option would be to hook up with the New York Yankees, who have talent at the big league and minor league levels.
Frazier is an obvious piece to go back to Washington. He's been highly productive but the logjam in the Yankees outfield leaves him on the outside looking in.
Andújar showcased his prowess at the plate last season, and despite being shelved for the 2019 season, he possesses a ton of offensive upside.
Add in top prospects like outfielder Estevan Florial, along with pitching prospects Garrett Whitlock and Chance Adams, and Brian Cashman and Co. just might be able to pull off the blockbuster mega-swap.