There is no precedent for what we could see in less than 36 hours. John Soto of the Nationals is the rarest of players on the trading block because of his youth (age 23), controllable years (two after this one) and historic talent.
Naturally, there are many contending teams that would love to add Soto to increase their chances of making the playoffs and a possible World Series run this season, as well as in 2023 and ’24. But which one of them, if any, will be the club to put together an offer that Washington can’t refuse before Tuesday’s 6 pm ET deadline?
To help us sort through the chaos and magnitude of the Soto sweepstakes, the SI MLB writers answered the following question: For what team is Soto playing on Aug. 3? Here’s what they had to say:
One of four teams never to have won the World Series, the Fathers are all in and this is no time to be cautious. No team better matches the fit for a deal based on need, motivation and prospect capital. San Diego has the worst outfield OPS this year and in franchise history. A deal could include CJ Abrams and McKenzie Gore—a steep price, but three pennant races with Soto, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. are worth it.
Washington. I know there’s a lot of smoke here, and Scott Boras’s “three pennant races” talking point has taken off, but I just don’t see why it makes sense for the Nationals to do this midseason. They are going to want a slew of top prospects and also major league talent, and most of the teams trying to win can’t afford to give up major league talent in August. It seems better for the potential return if Washington waits until winter, when, for example, a team with an attractive young shortstop can sign a free agent to replace him, thus making the kid available. Then every potential contender is a potential trade partner.
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The Nationals. Come January 1, I believe we’ll have a different answer, but before the deadline … I think the price is just so (understandably!) high that a team won’t be able to work out a deal. The return for louis castle shaped my thinking on this a little, too—if the norm this summer is being set by a prospect haul like the one the Mariners gave up for Castillo, well, how do you even begin to conceptualize the package for a young, generational talent with as much team control remaining as Soto? The price will still be high this winter. But talking about the cost for two seasons of Soto instead of two and a half will likely change the calculus enough that a team will be willing to jump in a way that just isn’t true right now.
I thought the Mariners were positioned well to swoop in, but after they gave up a haul for Luis Castillo, that seems less likely now. It also makes Washington’s return in any trade for Soto even more difficult to imagine. But I think AJ Preller, in his seventh full season in San Diego with only one playoff appearance during his tenure, pays the price to bring Soto to San Diego.
I know the Mariners just traded four of their top prospects to the Reds for Luis Castillo, and I know they would need to give up even more for Soto. Yet, I still think he’s going to end up playing the next three pennant races with Seattle. Of all the contending teams, the Mariners are the best match when you consider they have enough quality prospects that the Nationals would want in return, the payroll flexibility to extend or re-sign him, and the obvious need to improve their offense, especially with a left-handed power hitter.
Unlike the Mariners, the Padres could have a tough time signing Soto to a long-term deal, after previously extending Fernando Tatis Jr. and signing Manny Machado to mega-deals, and they reportedly are close to extending right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove for five years and about $100 million. the yankees and Dodgers need to add pitching more than hitting, although Soto surely would make either of them the favorite to win the World Series. the Cardinals need pitching more than the Yankees and Dodgers. As for Washington’s return, Seattle could send a package that includes some of the following top prospects and talented young major leaguers: George Kirby, Matt Brash, Kyle Lewis, Harry Ford, Jarred Kelenic, Emerson Hancock and Lazaro Montes.
This is just the kind of move the Dodgers make, right? Given the caliber of player we’re talking about here—and the fact that whichever club acquires him will be doing so for the next three postseasons—the cost of swinging a deal for Soto will be gargantuan (even if the Nationals are seemingly backed into a corner with no choice but to trade him). This pick is a reflection of the belief that there simply aren’t many teams that have demonstrated the ability and, perhaps more importantly, willingness to part ways with such a high volume of young talent if it means adding one of the game’s elite players onto the big league roster. Remember, we’re talking about a front office that traded away Jordan Alvarez and Oneil Cruz in recent years, not to mention Josiah Grey, Keibert Ruiz and Jeter Downs, among others. Acquiring Soto will dip into the well of organizational talent even further, but I expect Andrew Friedman and Co. to ultimately do whatever it takes to appease Dodger fans everywhere in landing the biggest fish of them all.
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