Yankees could make splash with Max Scherzer trade — but there are other needs too

Max Scherzer treated image with grey background

We’ll see if Max Scherzer becomes available prior to the trade deadline, but it sure is fun to think of him as a potential Yankee rental. His trademark ferocity, not to mention his nuclear stuff, would delight the Bronx, no?

Maybe we’re just grasping for some retail therapy to make ourselves feel better. These Yankees have been an enormous disappointment so far, even with two recent wins over the Twins. Hey, it’s just the Twins, aka MLB’s version of pinstriped cannon fodder.

We don’t know if the Yanks are fixable. But at least they are not out of contention, regardless of how hopeless they’ve looked at times, how outclassed they’ve seemed against the Rays and Red Sox or how out of patience their fans might be. As of Thursday, the Yankees sat in third place in the AL East at 33-29, 5.5 games behind Tampa Bay and four behind Boston. They are 2.5 games behind in the Wild Card race.

And that’s why they should at least consider a Scherzer deal, if that becomes a thing. His fire could serve as a nice jolt. A scout who watched Scherzer’s superb recent outing against the Phillies remarked that Mad Max’s intensity on the mound lights up a ballpark. He’s the kind of competitor who throws a bullpen session even as Georgetown is using the Nationals ballpark for its graduation ceremony. Tell me you don’t think these Yanks could use some extra grit.

Plus, Scherzer is as lethal as ever, even as he approaches his 37th birthday four days before the July 31 deadline. His 2.22 ERA is eighth in MLB and he’s only allowed 48 hits in 77 innings entering his start Thursday night against the Giants. He has fanned 104, held opponents to a .180 average and has an 0.82 WHIP.

Remember how he looked May 8 at Yankee Stadium? He annihilated the Yanks lineup, allowing two hits and a run in 7.1 innings while striking out 14 and walking one.

All of that would make the future Hall of Famer a nifty complement to Gerrit Cole. The two could help the Yanks get to October and then be an intimidating 1-2 punch in any playoff series.

There are no guarantees the Nationals will trade their ace, who is in the final year of a seven-year, $210 million contract. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported Wednesday that the Nats are not currently courting offers on Scherzer and GM Mike Rizzo and his front office know perhaps better than any team that a poor early record can be overcome — they were 19-31 (.380) after 50 games in 2019 and went on to win the World Series.

Washington is 25-33 (.431) entering Thursday and in fourth place in the NL East. They are seven games out in the division and nine games out in the NL Wild Card race. If they sink, perhaps they dangle Scherzer and re-tool around Juan Soto and Trea Turner.

Even if Scherzer is available, it’s clear that there are other needs in Yankeeland. With the rotation sitting 10th in the majors in ERA (3.62), maybe those other needs are more pressing and that’s where GM Brian Cashman turns his deadline attention.

The Yankee offense is averaging 3.87 runs per game; the MLB average is 4.38. The club needs help in center field. With Luke Voit out, first base has been remarkably unproductive. Maybe they should jump the market on all those glittering free-agent-to-be shortstops, trade for Trevor Story and start shuffling players around the infield. Any lefty hitters out there looking for work?

Yankee first basemen have the worst batting average (.169) and second-worst OPS (.516) in MLB. Yankee center fielders have the worst average (.194) and second-worst OPS (.603) in MLB.

And that’s no joke about their left-handed hitters. Traditionally, the Yankees have thrived with lefty power aiming at the right-field porch at the Stadium. This year, Yankee lefties have the worst OPS (.582) and worst average (.187) in the majors. They’ve only hit 11 home runs left-handed, second fewest.

Hal Steinbrenner has seemed devoted to staying under the luxury tax threshold, so perhaps the Yanks look to fill in around their margins rather than make a splashy move at the deadline that could take them over. Still, the Yankees historically like to be in the superstar business.

Even if they do pursue Scherzer, there’s sure to be a robust market for a talent like that. Maybe the Cardinals, whose ace, Jack Flaherty, is injured, pursue Scherzer, a hometown kid.

The prospect cost figures to be high. The Yankee farm system, ranked 14th overall by The Athletic and 18th by MLB.com before the season, might not have enough talent to get him, unless they are willing to sacrifice the bigger names. Would they be tempted enough by Scherzer to include Deivi Garcia or Jasson Dominguez?

We’ll see what happens. Here’s something for the Yanks to ponder as we wait: The Rays might not make a deal for a big-name, expensive player such as Scherzer to solidify their hold on the division.

But the Red Sox might.

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