Boston Red Sox Trade Rumors: Surprise Move — One Of Game’s Best Pitchers Boston Bound?

A new, surprising round of trade rumors swept the Boston Red Sox Monday, after the Washington Nationals reportedly signed free agent righty Max Scherzer to a staggering seven-year, $210 million contract over the weekend — giving Washington a projected starting rotation of five elite pitchers.

So what does that have to do with the Red Sox? According to rumors in the Boston media, the Nationals are now looking to trade one of those other four pitchers — perhaps even Steven Strasburg, whose arrival in 2010 was perhaps the most anticipated debut of a rookie pitcher since then 19-year-old phenomenon Dwight Gooden first took a Major League mound in 1984.

Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington has said that he is content with the Boston rotation heading into the February 21 opening of spring training, when Red Sox pitchers and catchers show up for their first mandatory workout of 2015. Cherington acquired Wade Smiley from Arizona, Rick Porcello from Detroit, and former Sox hurler Justin Masterson from St. Louis to round out a starting five topped by Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly.

But it’s no secret that given the opportunity to bring on one more top-of-the-rotation starter at the right price, Cherington would pull the trigger. And the addition of Scherzer to the Washington staff may have just given him the gun.

According to media reports, citing multiple baseball sources, the Nationals have been quietly shopping Strasburg around even before bringing Scherzer to nation’s capital.

“If the Nationals want to part with Strasburg the best teams in baseball will be calling or have already spent plenty of time talking to general manager Mike Rizzo. The Boston Red Sox are an obvious fit, because of their ability to take on Strasburg’s salary as well as their offensive depth,” wrote MassLive.com Red Sox correspondent Jason Mastrodonato.

“The Red Sox could provide any of their extra offensive players like Allen Craig, once an elite hitter in the National League who is coming off a forgettable season that looks like an outlier,” Mastrodonato also speculated.

But as Boston Herald baseball writer Scott Lauber points out, Strasburg — who, thanks to injuries, has yet to become the Hall of Fame caliber pitcher he was projected to be as a rookie — is less likely to be traded by the Nationals than two of his rotation-mates, Jordan Zimmerman and Doug Fister.

Strasburg remains under team control for two more seasons. Zimmerman and Fister will both enter the final year of their respective contracts, becoming free agents after 2015.

“(Zimmerman) turns 29 in May and has posted a 3.00 ERA in 122 starts over the past four seasons, including a career-best 2.66 mark last year, prompting several scouts to suggest that he, not Strasburg, was the Nationals’ best pitcher,” Lauber noted. “In short, Zimmermann qualifies as the top-of-the-rotation starter the Red Sox lack.”

And then there’s Fister, who — now with his third team — has always pitched in the shadow of more heralded teammates, but who, according to Bryan Macpherson of The Providence Journal, may be the best match for Boston.

“He’s been as good in recent years as any pitcher in baseball not named Kershaw. He’s owed just $11.4 million next season, a relative bargain,” Macpherson wrote on Monday. “With one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, the Red Sox have the chips to make a run at either Zimmermann or Fister. Which chips it requires depends on the way the Nationals evaluate Boston’s farm system.”

Will Cherington jump at any of these surprise, new opportunities and bring Boston the ace starter that Red Sox fans crave? Rumors are sure to fly at least until February 21.