The Nationals will have an astronomical asking price for their outfield phenom. Boardroom looks at who might have the pieces to pull off a deal.
Washington Nationals superstar outfielder Juan Soto has dominated the baseball conversation of late. From the 15-year, $440 million contract extension offer he reportedly rejected that would’ve been the largest in MLB history, to his Home Run Derby victory last Tuesday, to his D.C. future leading up to next Tuesday’s trade deadline, Sotomania is vast and all-encompassing.
MLB.com spoke with 15 executives who are split on whether the 23-year-old outfielder, who won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season, will be traded prior to Aug. 2. Washington reportedly wants four or five top young players for Soto, and we won’t have to wait long to see whether a team is willing to meet such a steep asking price. The Dominican Republic native has 20 home runs, leads the majors with 82 walks, and is third in the National League with a .401 on-base percentage.
Let’s take a look at Soto’s potential suitors and what it might take to pry him from the Nationals:
Teaming Soto with All-Star infielders Manny Machado and a soon-to-be-healthy Fernando Tatis Jr. would spell trouble for opposing pitching staffs. Any deal would start with top shortstop prospect C.J. Abrams and pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore, and could include top 100 prospects like outfielder Robert Hassell III, catcher Luis Campusano, and outfielder James Wood.
San Diego’s chief rival has a recent history of deadline-day blockbusters, including Max Scherzer and Trea Turner last year and Machado himself in 2018. If Soto is next, Los Angeles has six top-100 prospects to offer, led by catcher Diego Cartaya, righty starter Bobby Miller, and power-hitting infielder Michael Busch. Adding Soto would surely make the Dodgers favored to win it all this year.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has some fascinating decisions to make over the next few months. He could deal top-10 ranked shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe and phenom teenage outfielder Jasson Dominguez in a Soto trade and justifiably call him the long-term replacement for Aaron Judge. Judge is blowing MLB out of the water with 37 home runs but will be a free agent after the season at age 30 after rejecting a seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer prior to Opening Day. Could Cashman ditch Judge for a younger model? Could he keep both? Will New York end up with neither next April? As always, all eyes are on the Pinstripes.
Owner Steve Cohen flexed his financial muscles during the offseason by signing Scherzer, and could complete the coup by acquiring another Nationals supernova. With the second-ranked prospect in power-hitting catcher Francisco Alvarez and first baseman Brett Baty, the resources are there to have Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and Soto be the cornerstones of the Mets franchise for the next decade. Will they pull the trigger and fend off the hard-charging Atlanta Braves in the NL East?
Could Soto join a historic list of Hall of Fame Cards outfielders like Stan Musial, Lou Brock, and Enos Slaughter? Pairing Soto with superstars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado would cause St. Louis to dip into its reserves of five top-100 prospects like top-10 prospect third baseman Jordan Walker, lefty starter Matthew Liberatore, and catcher Ivan Herrera in addition to current big leaguers Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson. It would likely push the Redbirds over the top in a tight NL Central race with the Milwaukee Brewers.
San Francisco Giants
Could Soto be the next great Giants outfielder? San Francisco has a top-10 prospect in shortstop Marco Luciano to offer Washington in addition to prized lefty starting pitcher Kyle Harrison. With the Giants in the thick of the NL Wild Card race, a player of Soto’s caliber would open the team’s title window for years to come.
As you may know, the M’s have the longest playoff drought among the four major North American professional sports, dating back to 2001. Acquiring Soto and pairing him with fellow home run derby finalist Julio Rodriguez could go a long way toward changing that. The problem is that Seattle has just three top-100 prospects and no big name, aside from J-Rod himself, that might entice the Nats.
Here’s a wild concept: What if Washington just kept Soto? They could try and trade him this winter with two years left on his contract, but the franchise is reportedly for sale. Why wouldn’t the current front office just wait until the team changes hands and let new ownership decide? It’s such an important choice that perhaps it would be best for all involved to kick this can down the road until new ownership is in place. Regardless of what happens, the baseball world will be looking to see how it all goes down over the next week.