On Friday, Ken Rosenthal dropped a bombshell report on the baseball world in two parts: (1) Juan Soto has reportedly rejected a 15-year, $440 million extension offer which is why (2) the Nationals are now *actually* open to trading him.
Given his immense talent and a likely record-setting price tag, any deal involving Soto, 23, is going to be franchise-altering (in both directions). Only a handful of teams will even be able to absorb the financial cost of keeping Soto long term, though yesterday we learned that the Cubs are – theoretically – one of those teams. Whether they have the pieces (or stomach) to send what it would take to DC is another question entirely.
Either way, in the wake of Soto’s sudden availability, a LOT of ink has been spilled. From rumors, to reports, to hopeful sales pitches, here’s everything that has been reported after Rosenthal dropped his nuke.
- Let’s start with what we didn’t cover from the two reports we shared yesterday. First, the “theoretical” package Sahadev Sharma put together to illustrate what it MIGHT take to get Soto to the Cubs in the first place: “A deal built around Nico Hoerner, Justin Steele, Brennen Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Caleb Kilian and Cristian Hernàndez will seem like a lot to some Cubs fans, but it also might be laughed at considering Soto’s immense talent.”
- That’s the Cubs best young position player at the big league level (Hoerner), their most proven young starter at the big league level (Steele), and four of their five top prospects, all of whom are top-100 types, including two guys (Davis and Kilian) who are already knocking on the door of MLB. So another way to think about that deal is four young big leaguers and two top-100 prospects. And that deal might not even beat what else is out there.
- Oh, remember that’s not all. Not only would the acquiring team have to pay Soto for two very expensive arbitration seasons in 2024 and 2025 (which could amount to nearly $50M), and not only would they surely hope to extend him to a deal that should approach $500 million in total commitment, they might also have to take on some salary from the Nationals in the form of other bad contracts, per The Athletic: “The Nationals may ask any interested suitors to absorb an additional contract, as the Marlins did with Cabrera, including pitcher Dontrelle Willis in the deal. Washington owes nearly $60 million to pitcher Patrick Corbin in 2023 and 2024. The debt to Stephen Strasburg is even bigger. Strasburg, who has pitched eight times since 2019, will earn $140 million from 2023 to 2026.”
- Like I said, altering franchise … but in both directions.
- In addition to McCullough/Sharma and Jon Heyman, who all included the Cubs as potential suitors, Ken Rosenthal does, as well:
- In terms of the Cubs likelihood of landing Soto, I’ll just say this for now: they do check many, but not all boxes. They have a big enough market to support a record setting salary, they have the prospect depth to make it happen, and they could use a franchise cornerstone as much as any team out there. The issue, by contrast, is the lack of an elite prospect. Soto is probably as good as any player in baseball right now, but they would lose a lot to get him. They should still do it if they get the chance, but it would be painful and would require IMMEDIATE, significant, additional investment.
- Rosenthal also has a very interesting theoretical in that podcast episode, wherein a low-revenue, high prospect team like the Rays trades for Soto to use him down the stretch and next season before turning around and trading him before his final year of team control in 2024. That would be a bit of a gutsy move, but boy … it sure is exciting to consider. It also opens this race to … almost any team in MLB (which is Rosenthal’s broader point).
- Jesse Dougherty (Washington Post) has a very useful thread of information and reports, plus quotes from Soto, himself. Among the highlights:
- Dougherty also reports (this time, via the Post) that the Nationals will not increase their offer (which did not include any deferrals) and Soto’s camp has decided not to make a counter. And that’s tough. On the one hand, the total commitment would have been the largest in MLB history, but on the other, the 15-year duration kept his AAV under $30 million. Mike Trout got $36 million/year in his extension, and he was four years older than Soto at the time. You can say “But he’s Mike Trout,” and you’d be right, but Soto might be the closest thing we have at the moment. I think it’ll take either $500M total, or an AAV that beats trout … and still double-digit years. Why the Nationals won’t take it there… well, that’s their decision.
- It’s also worth mentioning that despite the lack of traditional “deferrals,” the deal was reportedly backloaded. And when that’s the case over 15 years, it basically IS a deferral. Jon Heyman has much more on how/why the talks broke down right here, including Scott Boras’ somewhat incredible comps. You can just tell already this is probably going to take at least $500M if we’re talking about 15 years.
- At The Athletic, Brittany Ghiroli discusses the Nats’ decision not to increase the offer to Soto, questioning the wisdom of saddling the next ownership group (oh, yeah, the Nats ownership group is at the beginning of a sales process) with a half-billion contract. But it’s fair to question that logic when we’re talking about $50-$60 million spread out over 15 seasons. You do have to draw a line somewhere — and the return will be historic — but you just rarely see true one-of-a-kind players moving teams.
- So, then, who’s actually considered a realistic landing spot? And are there any rumors? Let’s get into it.
- In one article at The Athletic (Andy McCullough), we see the Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Padres, Mariners, Cardinals, and Blue Jays. That link includes potential packages from each group (that’s where Sharma’s package was initially shared). In another article At The Athletic (Ken Rosenthal and others), we get the Padres, Mets, Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, Braves, and Red Sox.
- At The New York Post, Jon Heyman includes the Cubs, Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, and Giants. That means that the only teams on all three lists are the Dodgers, Mets, and Padres (the Cubs and Yankees are on two of three). But we don’t have to stay theoretical. The actual rumors have already begun.
- According to SNY, the Nationals reportedly view the Mets “as one of the few teams that can match up on a Soto trade, and would likely begin by requesting two or three of New York’s best prospects, plus more.” If that doesn’t sound quite as pricey as you’d expect that’s because it’s not … but also remember that the Mets have the No. 2 overall prospect, Francisco Alvarez, and another guy, Brett Baty, in the top-20. Point being, they’re more top-heavy than most. But that cuts both ways. They have some elite prospect talent, but not nearly as much depth as, say, the Cubs. With that said, they certainly have the financial resources to absorb the deal. Though it might push them above the Steve Cohen tax!
- Color me extremely pessimistic that the Nationals would trade Soto within the division. But I guess maybe that’s just not something you can reject out of hand when you’re making a deal of this magnitude. I just suspect there will be equivalent packages elsewhere that you’d prefer to accept, all things equal.
- At the New York Post, Jon Heyman cites sources who say that both the Yankees and the Mets *will* explore a trade for Soto. Heyman also adds a good piece of news for Cubs fans: “the early speculation around the game is that it won’t be easy for anyone to complete a megadeal like this by the Aug. 2 trade deadline since this is a generational type talent. Contending teams won’t want to surrender major league talent while they are in races….” The Cubs *should be* willing to do it now, even though they’re not competitive, but it is going to be easier for them in the offseason, when they won’t be competing with contenders who’d love to have Soto down the stretch.
- Heyman doesn’t stop there, he also has “unconfirmed speculation” that the Nats will be seeking a team’s “top four prospects and/or young major leaguers” and perhaps a willingness to take Patrick Corbin’s bloated contract.” Frankly, though, that’s less than what Sharma mentioned, and probably a no-brainer for the Cubs — What is that, Hoerner, Steele, Davis, and PCA? for Soto and Corbin’s money? Done deal. Which means it’s not enough.
- In a separate write-up, Heyman calls the Padres an “early favorite,” because the Padres still have the young players to make a deal for Soto. The tricky part is the Padres would try hard NOT to include Fernando Tatis Jr., the idea being to pair them together, so who knows if they could actually get a deal done. Also, the Padres strike me as a team not likely to spend what it takes to absorb Soto and Corbin, let alone keep Soto long term, without something else significant changing.
- The Padres pieces include CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, and others. The Yankees top pieces include Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Ken Waldichuk, and more. But what about the Angels? Could they do something just as crazy? As for the Dodgers, well, they make as much sense as any team out there. They have the money to keep Soto, they have the young players to get a deal done, and they have a history of acquiring (and then extending) baseball’s best young talent, including, most recently Mookie Betts. And, hey, who knows, maybe Trea Turner, as well.
- Like … include SHOHEI OHTANI? In case you missed it, Ohtani (one of the only equivalent talents in this entire generation), is also theoretically on the trading block. Maybe these teams can swap superstars and see if shuffling the deck changes their luck — both in terms of winning but also in terms of getting an extension done.
- The issue here is that Rendon, 32, is due $152M from 2023-2026 … and hasn’t been good a couple years (the Nationals already had their chance to keep him, too). Jo Adell has not come CLOSE to living up to the hype. And this deal does not have the Nationals including Patrick Corbin’s money. Ohtani is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I just think the Nats would be better off with a deal built around a TON of young talent and offloading a bunch of money. Something that makes them the sellers, not the buyers.
- Here’s David Aldridge discussing the Soto dilemmafrom the perspective the Nationals, whom he urges to increase their offer to 13/$481M or 12/$444 (basically, he acknowledgers that Soto needs to get $37M in AAV to be the undisputed top-paid player in MLB).
I am sure there is much, much more coming soon.