When Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals Sunday night, new doors seemed to open up for the Red Sox in the trade market. With two of their six strong rotation members facing free agency after 2015, could the Nationals be willing to deal Doug Fister? Perhaps even Jordan Zimmermann? Might the Red Sox find the front-line pitcher they've been searching for in Washington?
Then this happened:
That sounds exciting, and Joon Lee covered why earlier today. Just imagine Stephen Strasburg on the Red Sox!
The problem is that, as Joon cautions from the get go, it's probably not going to happen. Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister were potentially in that sweet spot where the price in talent, while high, would not go past the point where the Red Sox were not willing to make a deal. They're just not interested in shipping off Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, or Blake Swihart, shipping off low-cost answers at important positions to find temporary and expensive answers in the rotation.
With that in mind, what does the availability of Stephen Strasburg mean to the Red Sox? It means that they're probably going to walk away from this whole Washington situation with nothing to show for it.
The Nationals will demand an arm, a leg, and a firstborn from whoever they send Strasburg to if, indeed, they're dead-set on trading him. The position they're in will cost them some amount of leverage, but given that we're talking about Stephen Strasburg here, a market will form, and it will almost certainly be one the Red Sox are not willing to play in for just two years of Strasburg. There are teams that are more desperate to win now without having to worry about the future, while the Red Sox are always looking to be competitive in every season (even if that hasn't always worked out).
And if they're trading Strasburg, then it stands to reason that the Nationals won't be trading either Doug Fister or Jordan Zimmermann. Maybe they think they're likely to re-sign Zimmermann in free agency and are willing to let Fister go with just a qualifying offer. The why of things isn't terribly important for Boston, though. All that matters is that, without Strasburg, the Nationals will be down to five starting pitchers with no real incentive to trade one away.
For the briefest of moments, there seemed to be a golden opportunity emerging for the Red Sox to give their rotation the punch it needed to put it over the top. And perhaps Perrotto's sources are off, Strasburg stays in Washington, and that opportunity still exists for the Red Sox. But if he's right, and Strasburg is on his way out, then make no mistake: that's bad news for Boston.