The Washington Nationals aren’t being widely lauded for trading Juan Soto, but Mike Rizzo did fairly well for a general manager who sent a generational talent to San Diego.
With contract extension talks at an impasse, the Nats traded Soto to the Padres for MacKenzie Gore, C.J. Abrams and three other highly-regarded prospects. Ultimately, the need to trade Soto signals failures in roster-building by the Nationals, who have seen Soto, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner all leave since winning the 2019 World Series.
Self-inflicted or not, Rizzo was in a spot where he needed to make the best of a bad situation. For that reason, Audacy MLB Insider Bob Nightengale told “The Sports Junkies” he thinks Rizzo deserves a high mark for his work in the trade.
“I would give him an A, I really would. I thought he did an outstanding job,” Nightingale said. “He didn’t have to trade him, he stuck to his guns and said you meet my price or he’s staying put. You had the Dodgers involved, obviously, the Seattle Mariners, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Padres, and he took advantage of a very aggressive GM in A.J. Preller in San Diego. (Preller) said OK, we’ll just keep giving you prospects and do what it takes and finally (Rizzo got) every last guy he could.
“Threw in Josh Bell, who wasn’t coming back anyways as a free agent, so no, I think this is great for their organization as far as getting them back on track. If they kept Soto I just can’t see anything that would change. He’s going to start making more money, he’s probably going to make about $65 million in salary arbitration these next two years. And what are you going to do? Show up to the ballpark and watch him take a bunch of walks because there’s nobody else in that lineup? I think they’re better off this way, I really do.”
You do have to commend Rizzo for having the stomach to just do the deal now. It’s clear the Nationals were not in a position to rebuild around Soto because of how weak their farm system is. Soto’s trade value was as high as could be, so holding him even longer would probably just hurt the value.
Again, the fact that it reached this point is due to the missteps Nats management has made since winning it all three years ago. Their incessant struggles since made clear that they needed to move Soto in hopes of building a well-rounded roster long-term, but it’s too bad it had to reach that point.