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‘Fu-ture Dod-ger’: Fans certain to let Juan Soto hear it again this week

LOS ANGELES — The chants started in the outfield seats at Dodger Stadium soon after Juan Soto replaced Mookie Betts in center field for the National League All-Stars on Tuesday.

“Fu-ture Dod-ger! Fu-ture Dod-ger!”

At one point, Soto turned and flashed a big smile at the fans in the pavilion. In the home dugout, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts heard the chants.

“It was hard to miss,” Roberts said Sunday.

Soto will be back at Dodger Stadium Monday for a three-game series between his current team, the Washington Nationals, and one of the favorites (according to more than one online betting site) to be his next employer.

The fans are likely to let Soto hear it again this week.

“If a player like that is available a lot of teams are going to want him,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said as speculation heated up during the All-Star break.

The Dodgers might want Soto. Leading the National League in runs scored, however, they don’t necessarily need him — or any particular player.

“No, there’s no (area of) need,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, assessing his team’s strengths and weaknesses as the Aug. 2 deadline approaches. “You can always get better, but looking at our 26, and then you kind of look out to four to six more players that are getting healthy, there’s certainly no need.

“But there’s always a way you can get better and we’re always kind of kicking tires. But certainly no need.”

The Dodgers have made moves for star players at the deadline in past years — Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. But a trade for Soto would be an even bigger move because of the prospects it would take to trade for him and the financial investment it would take to sign him to a contract extension.

Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 million overture from the Nationals, prompting them to start entertaining trade offers for the 23-year-old who cannot become a free agent until after the 2024 season. They are reportedly seeking a package of four or five top prospects or young major-leaguers with limited service time in exchange for Soto.

“Our team is always in the conversation as far as the deadline — because we have a great system, we’re always trying to win a championship — so this is nothing new to us,” Roberts said. “So our job is just to continue to go out there and play good baseball. And also, I think that we’ve also learned that Andrew (Friedman) and the front office has done a great job, in the sense of, if there is a need, then they’re not afraid to go out and do something. But for us to sit around and wonder what could or couldn’t happen, that just isn’t helpful.”

Turner went through a similar situation with the Nationals. The two sides got nowhere on contract extension talks early last year and Turner was surprised to find himself on the move at the trade deadline, dealt with Scherzer to the Dodgers last July.

Turner — who will hit free agency this winter — and Soto remain good friends. Last fall, Soto turned up at Dodger Stadium, wearing a Trea Turner Nationals jersey and cheering his friend on in the playoffs.

“I don’t believe anything until it happens,” Turner said over the All-Star break when asked about the Nationals’ resolve to trade Soto. “We’ll see.”

MUNCY FUNK

When Max Muncy returned from the injured list in early June, the Dodgers billed it as a fresh start for his season, a reset after a miserable start left him with a .150 average and .591 OPS at the end of May.

Things have not turned around for Muncy. He went into Sunday’s game having batted .164 with a .644 OPS since returning from the IL. In his first 16 games in July, things actually managed to get worse — he was 6 for 50 (.120) with 24 strikeouts.

“I think that we were certainly hoping for more production when he came back. But there’s still a lot of baseball left. I’m counting on him,” Roberts said.

“I think with Max when you look up at the scoreboard and you see an average up there, you start chasing a little bit more,” Roberts said. “Pitching is too good to try and cover every quadrant. So when I see him swinging at changeups down below off (the plate) and then swinging at balls in off, that is telling me you don’t have a consistent approach. Honing in that approach would certainly be helpful.”

ALSO

Roberts said Justin Turner began swinging a bat and doing other “rotational stuff” to test his injured rib cage. Turner has not played since leaving Thursday’s game with the injury. But Roberts said “our hope is that he’ll be available at some point in the next series.” A move to the injured list is still possible “but I don’t think that’s likely though,” Roberts said. …

Left-hander Andrew Heaney is expected to come off the IL and start Wednesday against the Nationals. Heaney has been out since June 19 with recurring shoulder soreness.

UP NEXT

Nationals (RHP Paolo Espino, 0-3, 3.57 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Tony Gonsolin, 11-0, 2.02 ERA), Monday, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM

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