Coming off their disastrous weekend series against the Orioles, in which they were dealt a three-game sweep, the Nationals have fallen to eight games back in the NL East and face a very real scenario where being sellers at the MLB trade deadline may make the most sense.
There's one prize the Nationals hold who rival GMs covet more than any other: three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
Scherzer was scratched from his Saturday start against the Orioles with "mild discomfort" in his right triceps, which he sustained while taking batting practice earlier in the week.
That same day, the rumor mill began to swirl around the possibility of the Nationals dealing Scherzer ahead of the Friday, June 30 trade deadline.
According to Audacy MLB Insider Jon Heyman, given their current place in the standings, the Nats trading Scherzer "suddenly seems quite possible."
While Scherzer remains confident he'll be able to make his next start, the only other question that matters is: Will it be in a Nationals uniform?
With eyes on the near and long-term future, GM Mike Rizzo says the Nationals could be buyers and sellers at the deadline, leaving their true designs completely ambiguous. Although, he does seem to regret not being "full-blown sellers" in 2018, when they could have moved Bryce Harper and instead got nothing for him.
After seven seasons and a World Series title, it's almost hard to imagine Scherzer playing anywhere but Washington at this point. Especially if they have a mind to re-sign him when his contract expires this offseason. It's even harder to imagine the Nationals trading him within the National League, where they'd have to compete against him through the end of the season, potentially longer if he re-signs with his new club.
And it's darn near impossible to imagine the Nats trading Scherzer to a division rival (for all those same reasons listed above, and then some).
And yet, that's exactly what the odds are hinting at. According to BetOnline, if Max Scherzer is traded, the Mets are the team most likely to have pulled off the deal with the Nats.
Max Scherzer trade odds (via BetOnline.ag):
New York Mets — 3/1
Los Angeles Dodgers — 7/2
Milwaukee Brewers — 4/1
New York Yankees — 9/2
Houston Astros — 5/1
Boston Red Sox — 6/1
Oakland Athletics — 7/1
Tampa Bay Rays — 8/1
The notion that the Nats would trade Scherzer to the Mets seems to, for lack of better phrasing, defy the odds. Even a trade to the Dodgers, with whom the Nats compete almost annually for the best record in the National League, seems far-fetched.
But the odds are the odds, and those are the odds.