While a hypothetical Juan Soto trade has been rumored around the internet for months, it suddenly jolted into reality last week. It was reported the Nationals offered Soto a groundbreaking 15-year, $440 million extension, which the superstar declined. Seemingly believing Soto is destined for free agency after the 2024 season, Washington may now be looking to trade him as soon as possible. Soto’s value will likely never be higher than it is right now, with two and a half years remaining on his contract. While fans of just about every team are reading of Soto suiting up in their colors, the reality is there are just a few teams capable of working out a deal for the 23-year-old star. Lucky for Mets fans, the Mets are one of those teams.
The first quality to look for in a Soto suitor is a team in a win-now window. While Soto does have two plus years remaining before he hits free agency, it is unlikely a team mid-rebuild would be willing to sacrifice their top prospects for one player. Secondly, a team must have a top-of-the-line farm system in order to trade for Soto, or at least several blue-chip prospects capable of making a Soto trade worthwhile for the Nationals. Lastly, any team trading for Soto likely needs to be a high-spending franchise capable of retaining Soto once his contract expires. While it is not necessarily a prerequisite, it would be hard for many teams to stomach depleting their prospects for just two and half years of a modern-day Ted Williams.
So who fits these demanding qualifications? Not many. Among teams currently in “win-now" mode, those with the prospect capital to pull off a deal are the Dodgers (of course), Padres, Cardinals, Mets, Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, and Mariners. However, the Rays, Blue Jays, and Padres all seem constrained by their payrolls, while the Cardinals" top prospects are already playing a key role at the major league level. That leaves the Mets, Dodgers, Mariners, and Yankees. The Yankees, though, have shied away from spending big money recently and may be preoccupied with retaining Judge rather than trading for Soto.
The Corbin Question
One of the key uncertainties around a Soto trade is the rumor that Washington may want to package Soto with one of their albatross pitcher contracts in Patrick Corbin or Stephen Strasburg. On one hand, the team likely wants to maximize their prospect haul if they were to give up Soto. On the other, ridding themselves of one of these contracts could significantly speed up their turnaround time for this rebuild. In my opinion, though, Soto"s value is so high that including one of these pitchers won"t move the needle in terms of prospects. The positive value from Soto is far greater than the negative value of Corbin"s contract, especially to a team that spends like the Mets. If the Nationals demand Alvarez in return for Soto, the Mets will have to match that, whether or not they also take on the money owed to Corbin.
Reports have indicated that the Nationals are looking for both top prospects and young, controllable major league talent. The Mets don"t have many young bats in the big leagues at the moment, though I"m sure they can throw in Dom Smith as a bonus piece. On the pitching side though, both David Peterson and Tylor Megill have shown promise and still have several years of control remaining. Megill may have a higher ceiling, but his future as a starter is questionable. In addition, Peterson could add a lefty to the future rotation of Josiah Gray and Eric Fedde.
On the prospect side, the Mets certainly don"t have the best system around, but they do have the type of high-end talent needed for a Soto trade. If you"re a prospect-hugging Mets fan this may be about the time to close the article. This group is headlined by Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty, both top 20 prospects according to MLB.com. It feels like a given that both are destined for D.C. if a Soto trade materializes. On the back end of this deal, the Nationals will certainly look for one or several middle-tier prospects, like Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, or Alex Ramirez, plus a few lottery ticket prospects as well. How many prospects beyond Alvarez and Baty likely depends on the inclusion of Corbin/Strasburg.
Here are two potential Soto deals:
- Mets Acquire: Juan Soto
Nationals Acquire: Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, Matt Allan, David Peterson, Dom Smith
- Mets Acquire: Juan Soto, Patrick Corbin
Nationals Acquire: Franciso Alvarez, Brett Baty, Calvin Ziegler, David Peterson, Dom Smith
If your reaction to those trades is “No way! Mets are overpaying!" That"s how you know it"s a viable trade. If all of those prospects live up to their potential, there is no doubt the Mets will overpay for Soto. But they"re just that: prospects. The Mets are looking to acquire a verifiable superstar, who is just 23 years old and is arguably the best hitter in baseball. The only way to convince the Nationals to trade him would be to at least give them a shot at breaking even on the future value of the trade.
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