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Dodgers finalizing blockbuster trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from Nationals

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres.
Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres on July 18 in Washington.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

The Dodgers acquired veteran left-hander Danny Duffy from the Kansas City Royals on Thursday afternoon, a deal that probably didn’t excite the team’s fan base all that much.

It turns out Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, was just getting warmed up.

The Dodgers were “very close” to acquiring ace right-hander Max Scherzer and All-Star shortstop Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals on Thursday evening, a blockbuster deal that would greatly enhance the team’s chances of winning its second straight World Series championship.

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The trade was confirmed by two people familiar with negotiations but not authorized to speak publicly about it. Scherzer, according to sources, agreed to waive his rights as a player with 10 years of service time and five with the same team to veto the trade.

The Dodgers will reportedly send their top two prospects, catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray, as well as mid-level prospects Donovan Casey, a double-A outfielder, and Gerardo Carrillo, a double-A right-hander, to the Nationals.

Another person familiar with negotiations was not sure if the deal, which is pending the exchange of medical reports, would be finalized Thursday night. “Just a lot of moving parts and details,” the source said. The MLB trade deadline is Friday at 1 p.m. PT.

In Scherzer, who is in the final year of a seven-year, $210-million contract that pays him $34.5 million this season, the Dodgers would get a three-time Cy Young Award winner who helped the Nationals win the 2019 World Series and is 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 19 starts this season.

The Dodgers lost to the Giants 5-0 on Thursday in San Francisco, their fifth defeat in seven games to the NL West leaders over a 10-game stretch.

Not only would the Dodgers add another ace to pair with Walker Buehler at the front of their rotation and bolster a thin starting pitching corps, they would outbid their National League West rivals, the first-place San Francisco Giants and third-place San Diego Padres, for the 37-year-old right-hander.

There were reports earlier Thursday that the Nationals were close to a deal that would send Scherzer to the Padres.

Turner is batting .322 with an .890 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 18 homers, 17 doubles and 49 RBIs in 96 games this season. He was placed on the COVID-19 injured list Thursday and can’t join the Dodgers until he completes mandatory quarantine and tests negative multiple times.

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, out since mid-May because of a right hand fracture, is expected to be activated this weekend, but Turner can play center field and second base as well as shortstop.

Turner, 28, is making $13 million this season and is under club control through 2022. He would be a premier replacement if Seager leaves the team via free agency this winter.

The speedy Turner has a career .300 average, .890 OPS and 192 stolen bases and has been worth seven wins above replacement over the last two years according to FanGraphs, a number that trails only Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. among position players.

Washington Nationals' Trea Turner in action against the Miami Marlins.
Washington Nationals’ Trea Turner in action against the Miami Marlins on July 21 in Washington.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

Scherzer reportedly preferred to be traded to one of the three NL West contenders, and there was little doubt the Nationals would deal him because they are 47-57 and 7½ games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.

Scherzer was scratched from last Saturday’s start against Baltimore with right triceps soreness, but he started the first game of a doubleheader Thursday and pitched well, giving up three hits and one run in six innings against Philadelphia. Scherzer threw 88 pitches, 56 for strikes, and his fastball was consistently at 94-95 mph.

After Thursday’s outing but before the trade appeared imminent, Scherzer was contemplative about his time in Washington.

“This is where my family started,” he said. “I came here without kids, now I’ve got three kids. It’s been a very fun experience for me being in DC. What can you say about the fans? That’s where that championship will always mean something to all of us.”

Scherzer was also braced for a trade.

“I don’t want to look at this as a negative thing, I really look at it as a positive thing,” he said. “I signed a seven-year deal here to win a World Series. And we won a World Series. That’s a lifelong dream come true.”

Trading for a starting pitcher was paramount for the Dodgers because Trevor Bauer, their big winter free-agent signing and the highest-paid player in baseball, isn’t expected to pitch again this season after a woman accused him of sexual assault in late June. Bauer has been on paid administrative leave since July 3.

Dustin May also suffered a season-ending elbow injury in early May. Clayton Kershaw has been sidelined since July 7 because of left elbow inflammation, but he is expected back late next week, giving the Dodgers a rotation of Buehler, Scherzer, Kershaw, Julio Urias and either Tony Gonsolin or David Price.

Scherzer is 183-97 with a 3.17 ERA over 14 seasons. Though he turned 37 on Tuesday, he has shown few signs of slowing, allowing only 71 hits in 108 innings while notching 147 strikeouts this season. He would be in line to make his first start against the Houston Astros on Tuesday or Wednesday in Dodger Stadium.

With the trade deadline on Friday, The Times provides real-time updates and analysis on all the transactions in Major League Baseball.

With Scherzer, the Dodgers roster would include seven Cy Young Award winners between Scherzer, Kershaw and Price, and six MVP awards between Albert Pujols, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Kershaw.

Ruiz, a 23-year-old switch-hitter, was the Dodgers’ top-rated prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He is more advanced offensively than defensively, combining elite contact skills with power to hit .311 with a 1.012 OPS, 16 homers and 45 RBIs in 52 games for triple-A Oklahoma City this season. He’s hit two homers in 15 at-bats for the Dodgers over the last two seasons.

Gray, 23, was a second-round pick of the Reds in 2018 out of tiny Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y. He combines a lively 95-mph fastball with a mid-80s power slider and an upper-70s curveball. Gray, the team’s second-ranked prospect, was limited by a shoulder impingement to four triple-A games this season and made one start for the Dodgers in place of Kershaw.

The deal would be merely the latest trade-deadline splash for Friedman, who acquired left-hander Rich Hill in 2016, right-hander Yu Darvish in 2017 and star shortstop Manny Machado in 2018.

The acquisition of Scherzer would also be something of a second chance for Friedman, who was unsuccessful in signing him when Scherzer was a free agent before the 2015 season. Scherzer signed with the Nationals and made 189 starts for them in 6½ years.

DiGiovanna reported from San Francisco and Henson reported from Los Angeles.


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