The Rays have already made one big pre-deadline splash in acquiring Nelson Cruz, and more major names seem to be on Tampa’s radar. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan, the Rays “have had preliminary discussions about” Max Scherzer and Kris Bryant, while FanSided’s Robert Murray reports that the Rays are also one of the teams who have spoken to the Rangers about right-hander Kyle Gibson.
As always with Tampa Bay, payroll will be a critical factor in any acquisition, particularly since all of these players represent larger financial commitments than the Rays are usually willing to make. As Passan notes, however, the Rays’ deep farm system can act as a counterweight to those salaries — the Nationals, Cubs, or Rangers could possibly cover most or all of the remaining salaries for their trade chips if the Rays were willing to include some of their higher-tier minor leaguers. It can be reasonably assumed that Wander Franco is untouchable in trade talks, but beyond that, the Rays could be willing to budge on other noteworthy prospects if it meant landing a player that could help them win a World Series.
Scherzer presents a particularly interesting case, since the Nationals are solely responsible for the final $7.5MM installment of Scherzer’s original signing bonus, and the roughly $11.8MM remaining of his $35MM salary for 2021 is entirely deferred until 2028. Beyond just kicking the financial can down the road for much of the decade, the Rays might very well even be in a new city (and have new revenue streams) available by that point, since the Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field is up in 2027.