Juan Soto is on the trade block — and GMs better be prepared to break the bank

The cost for Juan Soto is too steep for Washington.

The cost for Juan Soto is too steep for Washington.
Photo: Getty Images

Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is a 23-year-old superstar. In just four and a half years in the bigs, he has established himself as one of the best pure hitters in the game. He’s a perennial MVP candidate, a master of plate discipline — and now he’s on the trade block.

Per reports, Soto recently turned down an offer from the Nationals that would’ve made him the highest-paid player in MLB history. Imagine being 23 and being in a position to turn down $440 million over the next 15 years. That’s how good a player Soto is. That’s more money than Mike Trout will make under his current contract ($429.6 million). That’s only $15 million less than the total value of the Nationals’ two biggest contracts in franchise history — Max Scherzer ($245 million) and Stephen Strasburg ($210 million). That’s almost 2.5 times as much as Barry Bonds earned over his entire career.

According to Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, the two-time All-Star is looking for a $500 million contract. Soto is on track to become a free agent following his age-26 season.

Soto’s decision to turn down the offer has caused a shift in tone from Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo. Throughout the season, Rizzo had made it abundantly clear that the Nats had no desire to trade Soto — just about the only player worth watching in Washington — this season. Rather, Rizzo believed Soto would be the centerpiece of a rebuild for the team. However, with Rizzo seemingly unwilling to pay the hefty price that Soto desires, the GM is at an impasse. Does he stick to his guns and drop another $100 million on this young phenom, or does he bite the bullet and ship him away for a dozen prospects and the peace of mind knowing that he doesn’t owe anyone on his roster half a billion dollars?

Rizzo is opting for door No. 2. That said, with Soto under team control for another two-plus seasons, the Nationals still have all the leverage in the world during negotiations. Let’s say the Dodgers come forward and say they’d be willing to give their top three prospects to get Soto. Rizzo has all the power to say “No, we’ll pass,” because Soto will still be a National at the end of the season. Rizzo should expect a king’s ransom for the Washington slugger. I’m not saying that the Dodgers’ top three prospects wouldn’t be a good haul, but if Rizzo believes he can get more for Soto, he shouldn’t bite at the first semi-decent offer thrown his way.

That said, the longer Rizzo holds onto Soto, the lower his value becomes. Since Soto is still under contract for three more pennant races, holding onto him past the Aug. 2 deadline would mean he was now only available for two pennant races. Still, two playoff runs is a long time, and a godsend for any high-powered team starving for a championship, like the Yankees, Mets, Padres, Phillies, Blue Jays, White Sox, and Brewers (although Soto might be out of their price range for an extension), or perhaps the Dodgers.

If Rizzo doesn’t believe a deal will be reached with Soto, he can still wait until the 2023 trade deadline to get a trade done. With the statements Rizzo had made prior to Soto’s rejection, it’s unlikely that any team was seriously calling to snag Soto off the Nats’ roster, therefore, it’s likely that the first few calls Rizzo receives now will be low balls to test the waters. Yes, there are still more than two weeks before the deadline hits, but it’s unlikely any team will make an offer that Rizzo would actually go for, especially considering that Soto’s value won’t drop off tremendously until a calendar year from now or more. Rizzo should expect the great offers to start coming in around the start of the winter meetings in the upcoming offseason.

So, what should the Nationals expect for Soto? At least a team’s top two prospects. That needs to be the start of the conversation. The Nationals would also probably want an MLB-ready talent to draw fans into the ballpark as well. Obviously, this player wouldn’t be anywhere near Soto’s level of talent, but someone exciting with borderline All-Star potential should be on the table as well. Couple that with a few more (maybe three or four) mid-to-low-end prospects and you’ve got yourself a deal. If Rizzo really wanted to be smart though, he’d also throw in Patrick Corbin.

It’s no secret that Corbin has become one of the worst contracts in MLB over the past year and a half. The Nationals acquired him following a 2018 campaign that saw the lefty record a 3.15 ERA and finish fifth in the National League Cy Young race. Corbin had a great 2019 with Washington, but ever since 2020, he’s become an enormous liability with the pearl in his hand. Corbin is still under contract through the 2024 season and is owed nearly $50 million in that time — all of it guaranteed. If the Nationals can get him off their roster, that would be an enormous plus. Sure, it would lower the value of just Soto, but getting Corbin off the team’s payroll is a big enough win on its own. I’m sure several of the top teams in MLB would be willing to make that sacrifice for Soto. I mean, is money even really an issue for the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, or Padres? No, not really.

So, with that here are a few packages I could see being made for Soto and Corbin.

New York Yankees:

SS Oswald Peraza (AAA) — the team’s No. 2 prospect (No. 38 on MLB’s Top 100 Prospects list)

OF Jasson Domínguez (A) — the team’s No. 3 prospect (No. 39 in the Top 100)

LHP Ken Waldichuk (AAA) — the team’s No. 5 prospect (No. 72 in the Top 100)

OF Joey Gallo (MLB)

RHP Lucas Luetge (MLB)

RHP Jonathan Loáisiga (MLB)

San Diego Padres:

UTIL C.J. Abrams (MLB)

OF Robert Hassell (A+) — the team’s top prospect (No. 23 in the Top 100)

OF Trent Grisham (MLB)

RHP Reiss Knehr (AAA) — the team’s No. 6 prospect

RHP Reggie Lawson (AA) — the team’s No. 16 prospect

San Francisco Giants:

SS Marco Luciano (A+) — the team’s top prospect (No. 9 in the Top 100)

LHP Kyle Harrison (AA) — the team’s No. 2 prospect (No. 25 in the Top 100)

OF Luis Matos (A+) — the team’s No. 3 prospect (No. 65 in the Top 100)

RHP Gregory Santos (AAA) — the team’s No. 14 prospect

OF Luis González (MLB)

Chicago White Sox:

1B Andrew Vaughn (MLB)

SP Michael Kopech (MLB)

SS Colson Montgomery (A+) — the team’s No. 1 prospect (No. 92 in the Top 100)

OF Oscar Colas (AA) — the team’s No. 2 prospect

SS Jose Rodriguez (AA) — the team’s No. 3 prospect

SS Romy Gonzalez (AAA) — the team’s No. 7 prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers:

C Diego Cartaya (+A) — the team’s No. 1 prospect (No. 13 in the Top 100)

RHP Bobby Miller (AA) — the team’s No. 2 prospect (No. 26 in the Top 100)

RHP Julio Urías (MLB)

RHP Brusdar Graterol (MLB)

OF James Outman (AAA) — #17 prospect

Obviously, there are more than just five teams who could be interested in Soto, but these mock trades are an example of the types of hauls we should expect to see in exchange for Soto. As you can tell, even with Corbin’s horrendous contract in the mix, Soto is still worth a metric ton of talent. He’s worth it though.

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