The Washington Nationals are reportedly willing to entertain trade offers for 23-year-old phenom Juan Soto, which makes him the most desirable player on the trade market.
The Nationals do not have to trade him by the Aug. 2 deadline — he is under team control until 2025, so they can slow play this and leverage as much as possible in any deal.
The price tag for Soto will be astronomical. We are talking top prospects, team-controlled stars, not to mention anyone looking to trade for him will likely want to ink him to a long-term extension. ESPN's Jeff Passan suggested it could be the "biggest trade package ever."
Soto just turned down a 15-year $440-million extension from the Nationals — an annual average of $29.3 milion. The Nationals ownership, the Lerner family, is also looking to sell the team, which may also factor into any deal.
It would be silly to limit the possible landing spots for Soto to five or six teams. Theoretically, every team — or at least contending team — should be a possible landing spot for a star of Soto’s caliber.
The best way to analyze this is to look at the landing spots in tiers:
Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Mets
Will the rich get richer when it comes to the Juan Soto sweepstakes? The Dodgers have never shied away from their pursuit of a big-time star and the addition of Soto would put them in a class of their own in the National League.
The Yankees have their own superstar in Aaron Judge that they want to re-sign but an outfield of Soto, Judge and Giancarlo Stanton would make Murderer’s Row look like a tee ball team. It would also cost nearly $1 billion to pay the three of them in addition to the top prospects (Anthony Volpe, Jasson Dominguez as a starting point), and team-controlled stars (Gleyber Torres? Nestor Cortes?) they’d have to give up. It begs the question: would Soto be an alternative if they cannot sign Judge? He is seven years younger so the back half of the contract would not nearly be as debilitating as paying Judge in his waning years. Perhaps the offseason would be best for the Yankees to make a move on Soto.
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The Nationals probably would want to steer clear of trading Soto within the NL East, but the Mets have the pockets and the prospects that could present the team an offer it cannot refuse. Catching prospect Francisco Alverez would have to be the centerpiece in any package. The Mets, with the deep pockets of Steve Cohen behind them, could also offer to take on another bad contract — Patrick Corbin or Stephen Strasburg — which may entice the Nationals to consider them.
San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox
The Giants could use some power in the middle of their lineup and Soto could step right in and start launching bombs into McCovey Cove the way Barry Bonds once did. It would mean Marco Luciano, a top-10 prospect in baseball, and others in the farm system with San Francisco possibly taking a bad contract back in return as well. But Soto could allow for the Giants to compete with the Dodgers (and Padres) for years to come.
The Red Sox are another intriguing team. They should possess the money and the prospects — if they are willing to part with them — to be in the hunt. There’s also pending free agents Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers and what to do with them. Could Bogaerts be packaged in a deal? What about Devers? Recent reports suggest things are not so optimistic about a long-term deal. Could they instead trade him for Soto? If so, can they get an extension done after not, in this scenario, being able to sign Devers or Mookie Betts. Plus, it remains to be seen if Chaim Bloom is willing to depart with significant prospects for such a deal.
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The Wild Cards
San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays
Audacy’s MLB insider Jon Heyman recently floated the Padres as a possible destination for Soto. A.J. Preller has shown he isn’t afraid to spend money despite being a “small market” team and Soto would give them a jolt in a competitive NL West. The question is will San Diego be able to pair Soto with Tatis and have a dynamic duo for years to come? Or would Tatis have to be a part of a deal?
The Rangers are another team that has spent a lot lately (Corey Seager, Marcus Siemian) and could make a run at Soto as they try to build a contender in Texas. They are rich with prospects (six in MLB's top 100), including No. 4 RHP Jack Leiter. The Mariners and Rays are not necessarily big spenders, but they are competitive, small-market teams with prospects to possibly find a way into the sweepstakes.
The Desperate Underachievers
Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox
The Blue Jays just fired their manager and need a spark. They have shown a willingness to acquire big names recently and it doesn’t get any bigger than Soto. Imagine their lineup with Soto, Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer? That is, if the Nationals don’t require one of Vlad or Bichette as part of a deal.
The White Sox, on the other hand, are loaded with talent and are hovering around .500. They are as desperate as desperate comes. But the team does not have a reputation for shelling out the big bucks and it’s hard to see what they can do to package a deal and still compete this season. Just how desperate are they?
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If Soto were to go to a non-contender, the Cubs may make the most sense. They are a big-market team that currently needs a star and face of the franchise to build around. The only problem is just how much of the farm system would the Cubs deplete in order to get Soto?
Astros, Phillies, Cardinals, Twins, Angels, Braves, Brewers
As mentioned before, every team should be in on Soto. The Houston Astros would continue to be the juggernaut in the AL that they’ve been the last five years if they were to find a way to get him. The Angels pairing Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout with him would be must-watch TV and may finally make the franchise competitive. The Cardinals and Phillies are both big-market teams where Soto would thrive (although the Phils and Braves have the NL East factor against them). Whether or not these teams have enough to get him remains in question, but they should certainly try.
Guardians, Tigers, Royals, Reds, A’s, Marlins, Orioles, Pirates, Rockies, Diamondbacks
Every team should be in, but these teams probably won’t be.