2022 Dodgers Trade Deadline Targets: OF Juan Soto, Nationals

Here is the first non-primer post in this year’s trade deadline series. It’s on Juan Soto, who is easily the most talented player on the trade block … maybe ever.

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Previous Entries

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The reason he’s on the trade block is not only because the Nationals have the worst record in baseball, but also because he reportedly rejected a 15-year, $440 million offer from Washington. I think you pay Soto whatever he wants if I’m the Lerners, but they’re also in the early stages of selling the team, so weighing the cost of Soto and a mega contract with the valuation of the team is, unfortunately, something that needs to be considered.

Soto, just 23, won the Home Run Derby last night in Dodger Stadium, besting Julio Rodriguez in the final round. Hopefully he’ll be hitting more dongs at the Ravine in the very near future.

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Before we get to acquisition cost, let’s look at just why every team should be in on Soto.

Damn, that’s a lot of red, and that’s considering this has been a bit of a down season for him. To date, he’s hitting .250/.405/.497 with 20 home runs and a 152 wRC+. When that’s a down season for a player, you know he’s good. Soto walks more than he strikes out — a rarity these days — and is a perennial 6-7 win player. Those guys don’t grow on trees, especially ones who aren’t even eligible to rent a car yet.

When Mookie Betts was available, the Dodgers went and got him. It was be akin to an NBA team trading for Kevin Durant heading into the second half of his career. Trading for Soto now would be like trading for LeBron James or Michael Jordan … before they even hit their prime.

The “traditional” prime ages have always been 27-32 years old. If you’re among the best in your sport, that can probably be moved on both ends … maybe something like 25-34 years old for the elite players. Soto won’t be 24 years old until Oct. 25, so the best is probably still to come, which is a scary thought.

Soto doesn’t provide a whole lot on the defensive side of the ball. He’s a -10 defensive runs saved in 2,603 2/3 innings in left field and -1 DRS in 2,039 innings in right field. If he’s acquired, he’d be spending his time in left field and sometimes as the designated hitter. But you’re not acquiring Soto for his glove.

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Every team should be interested in trading for Soto. However, the number of teams that could realistically acquire Soto without completely gutting their MLB roster and farm system is maybe a handful. From Baseball America:

  • Blue Jays
  • Cardinals
  • Dodgers
  • Guardians
  • Mariners
  • Marlins
  • Mets
  • Orioles
  • Padres
  • Yankees

Hard to argue with any of those. The Giants are missing, but even with a revamped farm system, they don’t yet have the depth to make a Soto deal without significantly weakening the system and hurting the talent at the MLB level. You’d probably have to start with Will Bednar, Kyle Harrison, Marco Luciano and Logan Webb just to get Rizzo to take the call. Farhan Zaidi is building something in Frisco and it’d be difficult to see him blow that up, even for someone like Soto.

Additionally, if you want to retain Soto beyond 2024, you’d have to be prepared and willing to give out the richest contract in MLB history. That would, conceivably, eliminate the Guardians and Marlins, with the Blue Jays, Cardinals and Orioles questionable to meet the asking price. The Padres already have a large payroll and I’m not sure they would want to dish out another $300-plus million deal (realistically, $500 million) to go along with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. The Mets are probably out, too, because I’m not sure the Nats want to face Soto 14 times per season for the next decade and a half. That leaves the Dodgers, Mariners and Yankees. If any of the other non-Mets clubs were to make the big splash, they’d be playing for a World Series title over the next 2 1/2 years. With the way some teams are run these days, winning a championship takes a back seat to profits.

So, what’s it going to cost? As a prospect honk, this is going to hurt. And if you’re a prospect hugger, this is going to be Armageddon for you.

Cost

This is where things get wild. I’m going to throw out three different proposals — one with just Soto (and a filler piece), one with Soto and Patrick Corbin and one with Soto and Stephen Strasburg, because hey, it isn’t my money! Plus, it’ll be interesting to see how each package compares and how much money plays a factor.

Proposal 1

To WSN: Jacob Amaya, Michael Busch, Diego Cartaya, Dustin May, Bobby Miller, Andy Pages
To LA: Soto, Will Harris

If you’re surprised by the amount and quality of player listed above, this is what it would take for Mike Rizzo to even pickup the phone and discuss a deal. Any deal involving Soto and no additional salary relief for the Nationals would have to start with the best the Dodgers have to offer — Cartaya, Miller and May. And for Soto, it’s worth it.

The Nationals would also be acquiring two other Top 100 prospects (and Miguel Vargas could be substituted in for Busch, if Washington so desired), a prospect in Amaya who is a true shortstop and has had a bounce-back season after being added to the 40-man roster over the winter and a future top-of-the-rotation arm in May, who is set to return from Tommy John surgery later this season. And for Soto, it’s worth it.

Harris is a veteran reliever who is recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome and would provide just a touch of salary relief. I wouldn’t expect him to contribute for the Dodgers.

Proposal 2

To WSN: Cartaya, Gavin Lux, Miller, Nick Nastrini
To LA: Soto, Corbin

The return here for Washington isn’t as great because the Dodgers would be taking on the remainder of Corbin’s contract. He’s owed in the $10-11 million range for the rest of 2022, $24 million next year and $35 million in 2024 ($10 million of which is deferred and paid from November 2024 and January 2026). They’d still land the Dodgers’ Top 2 prospects in Cartaya and Miller, as well as Lux, who they could immediately plug into their lineup and a low-level arm with tons of upside in Nastrini. Nastrini could be replaced with another similarly valued prospect of the Nats’ liking (someone like Clayton Beeter, Michael Grove, Peter Heubeck, Jorbit Vivas, etc.).

Proposal 3

To WSN: Miller, Vargas, Emmet Sheehan
To LA: Soto, Stephen Strasburg, Victor Arano, Cash

As much as the Nats would probably want to move off most or all of the $150-plus million owed to Strasburg through 2026 (with all kinds of crazy Nationals’ deferments), I’m not sure they’d want to give up a chance to fully replenish their league-worst farm system — sale or no sale. Miller would still be a good get and Vargas could be promoted tomorrow. Sheehan would be another lower-level lottery ticket arm. The Dodgers would get an old friend for the bullpen in Arano and some level of cash to offset the salary. I’m not going to even try to figure that out, thanks to the deferments and my limited brain power.

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It isn’t often a unicorn is available via trade. The Dodgers are among the teams in the best position to acquire someone like Soto because they have such depth in their farm system, depth at the MLB level, draft well and scout and sign international amateur prospects well. They don’t need Soto to be successful, but when you use your resources to your advantage, you have the luxury of acquiring one of the game’s best players. They did it with Betts — albeit, different scenarios — and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them do it again with Soto.

Sign me up.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.