The Washington Nationals might soon have another superstar heading out the door in free agency.
Back in 2019, Bryce Harper inked a 13-year, $330 million deal to join the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals wound up winning the World Series the following season while Harper has won an MVP award in Philadelphia.
Next up, Juan Soto is eligible to become a free agent following the 2024 season. The Nationals, who are 12-26 so far this season, tried to ink Soto to a 13-year, $350 million deal, but he declined it and reportedly didn’t find the offer all too impressive.
Over at ESPN, Buster Onley speculated that the Nationals could start to think about the idea of trading Soto this summer. He’s still two full seasons away from hitting free agency but will be due for a big raise this winter as he’s eligible for arbitration for the second time…
At 23 years old, Soto is already a superstar, and there aren’t any comparable examples of hitters of his stature being dealt at such a young age. But rival execs say the Nationals might well be compelled — and motivated — to move Soto this summer.“If they’re not going to sign him [to a long-term deal], then they’ll need to trade him,” one evaluator said. “The question is: When?”
Olney also noted that the front-office types, which is obviously an incredible vague label, believe that two teams could make sense for an early Soto trade, one of which is the Blue Jays…
Front-office types point to two teams that might be really motivated to move on Soto: The hyper aggressive San Diego Padres, who could dangle infielder C.J. Abrams and pitcher MacKenzie Gore; and the Blue Jays, who can dream on a left-handed star to complement the right-handed hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
While seeing Soto getting dealt before he’s eligible to hit the open market is undoubtedly possible, it would be pretty shocking to see the Nationals pull the trigger this summer when they still have two full years left of control on one of the best hitters in baseball.
Folding up and dealing away a player of Soto’s caliber when he’s as young as he is and after just one contract extension offer would send a terrible message to the fanbase. Unless somebody goes and makes an offer so good they can’t refuse it, there isn’t much reason for the Nats to do anything other than to hang on and wait and see where things are at in Soto’s final off-season before free agency, which would be after the 2023 season.
Since entering the league in 2018, Soto is sixth among all players in fWAR and he’s third behind only Mike Trout and Yordan Alvarez in wRC+. If you’re the Blue Jays, absolutely, yes this is the type of player you sell the farm for, but if you’re the Nationals, you’ll probably at least want to make a second extension offer before sending him off for Gabriel Moreno, Orelvis Martinez, and whatever else.
Anyways, later on in the article, Olney also mentioned a few more realistic names that could interest the Blue Jays when they inevitably go out and look for a left-handed bat on the trade market…
The lineup is very right-handed, with a clear need for left-handed hitting for balance. It seems a sure thing that the Jays’ aggressive front office will do something to address that. Could that be Josh Bell? Andrew Benintendi? Ian Happ?