Juan Soto could be in a different uniform before the trade deadline. It seems impossible that we've come to this moment, but here we are. On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal reported for The Athletic that Soto rejected the Washington Nationals' latest gigantic extension offer worth $440 million over 15 seasons. It's an unholy amount of money even for a 23-year-old superstar/Scott Boras client, and Rosenthal said the Nationals figure he'll never sign in Washington for the long-term if he didn't sign that contract. Which is an understandable train of thought.
With that in mind, the Nats are going to see if they can trade Soto for significant assets by this year's deadline. Per Rosenthal:
Juan Soto is available.
The All-Star outfielder recently turned down an offer from the Washington Nationals that would have made him the highest-paid player in baseball history, and the team now plans to entertain trade offers for him, a seismic development leading to the Aug. 2 deadline.
The Nationals have spent all of the first half of this season insisting they won't trade Soto despite turning into one of the worst teams in the NL merely two years after an unlikely World Series run. That is no longer the case, as described by The Athletic:
Soto’s rejection of $440 million, however, altered the equation, sources said, leaving club officials believing that if they cannot sign him for that money, they never will. The Nationals view their exploration of a Soto trade as due diligence. He is under club control for the rest of this season and then two more. The team does not need to trade him immediately if it does not get a desired offer.
This is a rather significant development. Soto is a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger with a batting title under his belt after only four years in the Majors. He's 23. He has two and a half seasons of team control left on his contract. Players like this almost never hit the trade block. That's why the return is going to be unlike anything we've ever seen.
Despite that, we'll still try and evaluate who could pony up the type of package the Nationals would be looking for.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are an intriguing contender for Soto because they have a half-dozen or so good-to-great prospects in their farm system and two bonafide All-Stars that ownership doesn't seem terribly interested in keeping around. Could a package featuring Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, along with every decent prospect in the system, get a deal done? It should at least get talks going. Bogaerts is about to become a free agent and there's been no movement on the Devers front despite his impending 2023 free agency. Even if Bogaerts walks, Devers is a great hitter already with a lot of room to grow. It would be weird to see John Henry leap at the opportunity to give Soto a half-billion dollars after Mookie Betts but Soto is worth it and his deal would be around the same as paying both Bogaerts and Devers what they deserve. It isn't likely but it's certainly possible.
It feels like the Mariners have been pushing towards the edge of relevancy for the last few years only to fall short each year. Maybe they're tired of that. Loaded with a great farm system featuring up to a dozen future big leaguers and three potential superstars in George Kirby, Noelvi Marte, and this year's frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Julio Rodríguez. Seattle is lacking in the kind of talent that could help the Nats turn it around right now but usually teams trading players the caliber of Soto want to raid the prospect farms for the best possible futures. The Mariners can offer that. It would stink to lose Rodríguez after he made the All-Star team as a rookie, but the best version of Rodríguez is what Soto is right now. It's what's required to land a guy of that caliber. And given Seattle isn't likely to outbid a team like the Dodgers in the open market anytime soon, this is the best way to acquire a surefire superstar.
New York Yankees
The Yankees won't be near the top of any Soto list because they're the best team in baseball and upsetting that delicate equilibrium is a big risk. However! The Yankees have the star power to at least get the Nats to pick up the phone for a Soto trade. If Washington is interested in making an immediate turnaround, New York can offer up Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton in an obscene movement of salaries. It's questionable if those guys are worth that money but the two of them together guarantee mediocrity at worst, health willing. Then you add in Anthony Volpe and any other Yankees prospect worth their salt and that's a start. New York is more probable to do this next offseason after seeing what happens in 2022 and with Aaron Judge, but they should be on the radar.