- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Washington Nationals are entering what appears to be a full rebuild.

General manager Mike Rizzo vowed to be aggressive whichever way he opted to play Friday’s trade deadline — buying or selling — but with the Nationals 7.5 games back of the National League East, the decision became clearer. And while starter Max Scherzer, on the final year of his contract, appeared a likely trade candidate, star shortstop Trea Turner appears to be joining Scherzer in a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers are approaching a deal for the two Washington stars as the deadline nears, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, in what will yield a large prospect return. Rizzo had said in a radio interview Wednesday that he wants to retool the team for additional championship runs, but the inclusion of Turner in a deal casts doubt over Washington’s immediate ability to contend for another World Series.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the package headed back to the Nationals will be catcher Keibert Ruiz, right-hander Josiah Gray and two mid-range prospects.

Ruiz is the top prospect within Los Angeles’ farm system, per MLB Pipeline, and the 23-year-old backstop is hitting .311 with 16 home runs in 52 games at the Triple-A level this season. Gray is the second-ranked prospect in the Dodgers’ ranks, and the pitcher holds a 2.87 ERA in 15 2/3 innings in Triple-A. At the MLB level this season, he carries a 6.75 ERA in eight innings of work.

Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post reported that right-hander Gerardo Carrillo — the Dodgers’ No. 17 prospect — and outfielder Donovan Casey are also included in the deal. The Post’s Chelsea Janes reported the Dodgers are taking on all money owed to Scherzer and Turner in their contracts.

Scherzer is a future Hall of Famer with three Cy Young Awards to his name. He’s nearing the end of his organization-changing seven-year deal with the Nationals, and as Washington continued to slip in the standings, a move at the deadline seemed increasingly likely.

The 37-year-old started the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader, throwing six innings while allowing one run. He earned his 92nd win for Washington, and he’d finish his time in the nation’s capital with a 2.80 ERA with 1,610 strikeouts and a 0.962 WHIP across 1,229 innings. After the game, he said he didn’t know what to expect from the trade deadline.

“This is new to me,” Scherzer said. “I’ve only been traded in the offseason; I’ve never had to deal with this during the season.”

Turner, 28, signed a one-year, $13 million contract last offseason, and he’s set for arbitration again this upcoming winter. He tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday, but he’s hitting .322 this season with a .890 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

He was acquired by Washington in a trade with the San Diego Padres in 2015, a deal Rizzo called “one of the greatest trades I ever made. He turned out to be one of the great superstars in all of baseball, and we’re proud to have him here.”

But Rizzo also said no player is untradeable, and he proved that Thursday night with the reported deal for Turner.

“There’s players that I wouldn’t think about trading,” Rizzo said. “If someone came with a deal that made a lot of sense, you’d have to consider it. If you didn’t, it’s malpractice. You wouldn’t be doing your job. But there’s guys that you’re not gonna trade and you don’t want to trade. But you can never say never. It’s very, very unlikely on a handful of players, but you can’t say never on anybody.”

Apparently, the return for Turner and Scherzer combined was the reason Rizzo never says “never,” and it ushers in a new era in Nationals baseball — one without a star shortstop and future Hall of Fame pitcher.

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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