What’s next for Juan Soto?  Possible landing spots, Nationals strategy and more

What’s next for Juan Soto? Possible landing spots, Nationals strategy and more

Almost every trade is made up of building blocks, with the final transaction typically built around a slow, methodical process through which the teams involved evaluate, theorize, exchange concepts, and haggle.

But as talks play out with Juan Soto and Washington general manager Mike Rizzo weighs his options, Rizzo’s colleagues say he has a long history of acting quickly — and decisively. What Rizzo tends to do, say competing executives, is identify the prospects he wants from a particular organization and then focus on that team. “We wanted to talk about it [Max] Scherzer and [Trea] Turner,” said one NL decision-maker, “but it felt like we weren’t even allowed to enter the room. It seemed like Rizz decided he wanted Keibert Ruiz and then went with the Dodgers.”

If Soto talks play out similarly, the most important thing in these negotiations will be who Rizzo wants to strengthen the organization of the Nationals. The message other clubs have gotten from Washington is that the team wants major-league capable players – young players on cheap deals who are already in the big leagues or about to make their debut.

Rival executives will soon determine whether Rizzo — who did not return a message for this article — favors shortstop CJ Abrams and/or pitcher Mackenzie Gore, who may be the best trade chips the Padres are willing to offer. Or would Rizzo rather scour the extensive wave of potential positional players the Cardinals could offer, from Nolan Gorman to Jordan Walker to Dylan Carlson. And there are other ways that could be made available if Rizzo prefers to build a deal around the Yankees’ Anthony Volpe or the Giants’ Marco Luciano.

Whoever goes with it, a deal for Soto before the August 2 trading close is a real possibility, according to several competing executives – partly because his trading value will only go down year-on-year in line with his rising salary, and partly because of the perception that the ongoing sales of the team is a driving force. The new owners might want the Soto situation resolved one way or another before taking over the team lest they be left with the awkward task of trading a future Hall of Famer.

At least two rival executives believe this is just an exercise for the Nationals, a time to gather intelligence for when Washington is better prepared for a monumental trade.

Whenever the Nationals made it, 23-year-old Soto became the most significant young player traded since 24-year-old Babe Ruth made the transfer from the Red Sox to the Yankees in December 1919. Soto’s plate discipline sets him apart from the best racquets of this era and of most eras; So far in his career, he has had more walks (452) than strikeouts (406) with a career-adjusted OPS+ of 160, better than most all-time greats. Henry Aaron’s career-adjusted OPS+ was 155; Stan Musical’s 159.

Soto would be a perfect fit everyone Team of course, including small market clubs. As one executive noted, the fact that Soto isn’t tied to a massive long-term deal means even the most modest of budgeted teams could get involved. Taking over Soto’s remaining salary wouldn’t ruin a paycheck: He’s making $17.1 million this year and is eligible for arbitration — he could see pay jumps into the $23-24 million range next year and nearly 30 See million dollars in 2024 before he reaches free agency.

“You saw the Rays try to sign Freddie Freeman in the spring,” noted one reviewer. “Any team could take on Soto and immediately improve their line-up so much.”

The Padres are viewed by rival executives as perhaps the most motivated team in the trading market with an aggressive all-in mentality. Owner Peter Seidler funded one of the highest payrolls in baseball, highlighted by Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., and the club has had internal discussions about pursuing some of the bigger names in free agency over the next few years — so presumably, them would be willing to persuade interested parties for Soto. Seidler has become the Mike Ilitch of his generation, committed to the idea of ​​building a winner for his city, even if it means spending more on his team than the industry expects.

There are plenty of other contenders: The Blue Jays, amid an opportunity for their young core of players, are in dire need of a left-hander to complement right-hander Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Dodgers are constantly making big aggressive moves, as with Scherzer and Turner last summer, but there is confidence within the organization in the excellence of the current roster and some concerns about the high number of prospects that have been handled in recent years. The Cardinals’ primary need right now might be for high-end pitching rather than a hitter — even one as great as Soto. Like the Padres, the White Sox are in win-now mode. The Rangers have the payroll and potential wealth to have some flexibility to make a big move. The Mets and Braves might have a desire for Soto, but it’s not yet clear if the Nationals would even consider installing Soto with the division rivals they now have to hunt down. The Yankees are a franchise of exceptional wealth and financial prowess, but an organization source said the focus in the front office right now is on American League MVP candidate Aaron Judge, who will be eligible for the free hand in the fall. Said a rival manager: “Actually it would give them an excuse to get Soto to get away from Judge – and they would get the younger player as the Braves get [Matt Olson] after failing to sign Freeman.”

With Soto having no no-trade rights and being under team control for another two-and-a-half seasons, a team that acquires him in a deal now could even flip him before he reaches free agency to regain potential value. The expert cited the Guardians as an example: “They have it good [farm] System and could use those assets now and get him to try and win this year and then sometime in 2023 or 2024 he could switch him to another team – and he’d have a lot of value. He’s so good.”

After an emotional week for Soto — the leak of his rejection of the Nats’ 15-year $440 million bid, the trip to Los Angeles, a home run derby win — some rival officials now believe the leak both the Player as well as serves the player and the team. For Soto and agent Scott Boras, it’s an exceptional foundation for future negotiations, and for the Nationals, it’s a message to fans that they’ve been trying to keep Soto on a record deal. It’s also a tangible demonstration to the industry of the racket’s exceptional value – something the team certainly hopes potential commercial partners will bear in mind.

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