News surfaced Saturday that Nationals outfielder Juan Sotoin trade talks after rejecting Washington’s latest extension offer – a 15-year pact worth $440 million. The Nationals are expected to ask for a ton in exchange for Soto, and rightly so; he is, after all, a 23-year-old who is already on a Hall of Fame track.
Soto entered Saturday with a career slash of .292/.427/.540 (160 OPS+) along with 117 homers and 21 wins over substitution in more than 2,000 major league plate appearances. He won’t qualify for free agency until after the 2024 season, meaning if a team acquires him within that time frame, they’ll have him in tow for three playoffs.
Of course, the odds of the Nationals agreeing to a Soto trade before the Aug. 2 deadline are uncertain. It would seem unlikely that such a blockbuster could come together so quickly, but then, this is baseball and weird things happened.
So which teams are best placed to land Soto? Below, CBS Sports has ranked the 29 non-domestic clubs based on their perceived chances of securing a deal.
Level 1: No payment, no play
We are writing off these six teams due to the financial component. Even if they didn’t try to extend Soto, they would have to pay his substantial arbitration prices; that’s not the style of these teams. You can argue that the contending Rays, Guardians or Brewers should consider acquiring Soto for the stretch run as the flags are forever flying and they would have plenty of time to trade him and pick up prospects at a later date. . We like the idea, but that sort of maneuver hardly ever happens anymore, and we’re skeptical it’ll happen again with a transaction of this expected magnitude.
Level 2: Rebuilders R’ Us
While acknowledging that some of these six teams seem closer to joining the competitive ranks than others, we don’t think any of them will pose a serious threat to reaching the Nationals’ asking price. It would be cooler if they did, though.
Level 3: Something is missing
15. White Sox
For as fun (or frustrating) as it would be to see Soto in a lineup with the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, or Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., we’re putting a line through this group because we think they are below the financial component or the prospect component. Of all the levels so far, this is the first where we think a team from here could make a real play – we’re warming up, in other words.
Level 4: Rivals, not friends
One question that will be asked of the Nationals is whether or not they are willing to trade Soto within the division. If so, those teams should be moved to the next tier, with the Mets in particular standing out as one of the best potential landing spots for him; if not – and let’s face it, teams usually don’t want to trade their homegrown superstar for a rival they’ll constantly see at home and on the road throughout the season – then that represents the ceiling for this group. Whatever the answer, the Mets (and, in particular, Steve Cohen’s thick wallet) will likely serve as a useful bogeyman for Soto and his representation from here on every time he puts pen to paper on a new contract. .
Level 5: Competitors in major markets, but…
7. Blue jays
Soto would make sense for any of these three teams – all competitive and based in major media markets – but we wonder if their front offices would be willing to commit to the contract terms he would demand. The Astros and Red Sox are typically managed by former Rays executives who have traded or bid farewell to Mookie Betts, George Springer and Carlos Correa in recent seasons instead of handing out massive extensions. (You could argue that Soto is on another level, but those players aren’t exactly liver-cut.) The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are led by former Guardians executives who have recently shown a willingness to dish out handouts. big deals, but who presumably have their eyes on expanding their own collection of young stars, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. Would they have enough money to do both, or the detachment to go for Soto over them? We are open to the possibility, but uncertain.
Level 6: The first five
The Mariners make sense on paper. They have a good agricultural system. They have few long-term commitments. They have a hyperactive general manager who has every reason to step on the pedal to end the sport’s longest playoff drought. Would Jerry Dipoto feel comfortable parting ways with several of his top prospects, led perhaps by a combination of shortstop Noelvi Marte and pitchers George Kirby and Matt Brash? We don’t know, but we have to think about it.
The Giants have written dark horse chases in the past for the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper. Senior executive Farhan Zaidi also knows all about star hunting from his time as a member of the Dodgers front office. The Giants have few meaningful long-term commitments, and Soto would serve as a spiritual successor to Buster Posey as the face of the franchise. The catch is that Zaidi doesn’t have the kind of war chest that some of his competitors have, meaning he might have to go back to a bad contract, like Patrick Corbin’s, to catch up.
We are legally obligated to include the Yankees at the top of these lists due to their financial might and history of taking advantage of these kinds of situations. Brian Cashman has even held on to prospects like Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza in recent years, giving him legitimate youngsters to trade. The interesting wrinkle with the Yankees is that they haven’t resolved the Aaron Judge situation yet. The only way to appease the Yankees fanbase if they let Judge walk after this season is if they have Soto in hand or on the way – and hey, there are a whole host of legit baseball reasons to prefer a commitment. term to him on the judge, including age, past history and injury history.
As with the Yankees, the Dodgers are always at the top of those lists. Andrew Friedman has shown in the past that he is ready to support elite players, and Soto fits into that regard. According to how the Nationals rate some of the Dodgers’ best youngsters – Bobby Miller, Diego Cartaya, Andy Pages, etc. – Los Angeles should probably follow the plan we presented in the Giants section by taking a bad contract in addition to Soto. They did something similar when they got Mookie Betts from Boston, so it might not be a big deal for Friedman and company.
It’s almost certain to age badly, but yeah, we think the Cardinals have the clearest path of any team to acquire Soto. They’ve beaten Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in recent seasons, and taken a beating on Francisco Lindor, among others, showing they have the appetite and drive to make a successful addition. The Cardinals also have the option of offering a package that includes a combination of Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill, among others. Additionally, Goldschmidt’s contract will be void after the 2024 season…or just when Soto’s extension expands to cover his free agent years. It’s possible Soto would prefer to play on a rib, but before that, Mike Rizzo should direct one of his first phone calls about Soto to the Cardinals.