The Rays are expected to be one of the most aggressive teams in baseball before Friday's MLB trade deadline, and that could mean a move to Florida for Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
Tampa Bay has had "preliminary discussions" regarding a potential Scherzer trade, sources told ESPN's Jeff Passan. The Rays are also interested in Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.
Trading for a high-priced pitcher like Scherzer would be an uncharacteristic move for an organization like the Rays. Scherzer's $35 million salary would be roughly half of what the Rays' payroll was to start the season and it's also deferred without interest from 2022-28.
The Nats could theoretically offer to cover some of that cost as a part of the trade, but would presumably require more compensation from Tampa in that sort of scenario. Scherzer, even at 37 years old, holds a lot of value regardless. The eight-time All-Star has a 2.83 ERA through 18 starts to go along with 142 strikeouts across 105 innings.
The Rays recently called up top prospect Wander Franco to majors but still boast one of the league's best farm systems. Trading Scherzer would certainly signal a selling approach by the Nationals, so selling to a team with a ton of quality prospects wouldn't be the worst move in the world.
Scherzer has a no-trade clause built into his contract but reportedly doesn't plan on using it at the deadline in order to stay with Washington, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
The MLB Trade Deadline is on Friday at 4 p.m. ET.