Juan Soto is on the trade block. That's a sentence I never thought I'd type during the All-Star's entire career. The Washington Nationals have been unable to work out a long-term extension with Soto, despite reportedly offering him nearly half a billion dollars. If Soto does move, it will be for the biggest trade package in MLB history.
Soto is essentially a modern-day Ted Williams. An elite left-handed bat who hasn't even hit his prime yet. He's 23 and will bring a batting title, two Silver Sluggers, three All-MLB selections and a World Series ring to his next team.
Not only does Soto possess otherworldly bat-to-ball skills and power, he also boasts the best eye in the game. He walked 145 times in 151 games in 2021 and already has 79 through the first half of 2022. He simply doesn't swing at pitches out of the zone. His career slash line of .293/.427/.527 and a career OPS of .968 are Hall of Fame numbers. He posted a league-best on-base percentage of .490 during the 2020 season and topped MLB again in 2021 at .465. He's absolutely elite.
Soto won't be a free agent for two more years, so any team trading for him will have time to ink him to a contract extension. Frankly, given what it will take to acquire him, his future team may demand an extension be done before a trade.
A trade for Soto would be unprecedented in Major League history. He's a 23-year-old who is already among the five best players on the planet and is on a Hall of Fame trajectory. Those guys don't get traded. That's why the package for him will be unlike anything we've ever seen. The issue is, I'm not sure any team can adequately meet what the Nationals will demand.
A deal for Soto would likely take three top-100 prospects at a minimum, then almost certainly a number of other players. For example, the San Diego Padres have a number of top prospects and young players and the proposed packages being thrown around are nuts. Washington would likely ask for C.J. Abrams (who began the year as a top 10 prospect but is currently in the big leagues), MacKenzie Gore (a fellow former top prospect), Robert Hassell II (No. 25 prospect), James Wood (No. 90) and Jackson Merrill (last year's first-round pick). That's an absolutely insane haul.
Would the Padres meet that demand? Would any team? That's five players, two who are already in the bigs, two high-ceiling outfielders and a really good young shortstop. Now, none of them likely wind up being anywhere near as good as Soto, but they are all cheap and under team control for a long time. Soto could hit the open market after the 2024 season. Which is why any team meeting that price would likely demand Soto be locked up long-term before a trade is consummated.
Soto reportedly turned down the largest contract in MLB history from the Nationals. The 15-year, $440 million offer was rejected. That comes after he claims to have turned down a 13-year, $350 million offer before the offseason lockout. Part of the reason Soto rejected the latest offer is that the average annual value of $29.3 million would only rank 15th in baseball. That's simply not high enough.
Given the value he provides, Soto will almost certainly be the new highest-paid player in the game. The question isn't what he should be paid, it is who would be willing to pay it? Then you have to look at those few teams and see who has the prospect and player capital to actually entice the Nationals.
My guess is no one will meet Washington's demands now and everyone will wait this out. Sort of like the Mookie Betts situation with the Red Sox a few years ago. Everyone knew the franchise needed to trade him eventually but a deal didn't go down until after the 2019 season.
The Nationals have signaled there intention to listen to offers for Soto. We'll see if anyone meets what will undoubtedly be the highest price in baseball history.