Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, reigning Home run Derby winner and generational talent, has been made available for trade just a week before the trade deadline.
The decision by the Nationals comes after the 23 year old phenom declined a $440 million dollar contract extension.
Which leads us to the topic of the day: Should the New York Yankees go all in on the 23-year-old star, who isn’t a free agent until 2025?
Soto isn’t a top the Yankees board of needs. In many ways they have a crowded outfield. They need starting and relief pitching and potentially a shortstop before another outfielder.
But Soto isn’t just an outfielder, nor a home run derby champion, or even just a 23 year old all star.
Soto is a generational talent. Those don’t become available ever, and when they do they are on the wrong side of 30.
At 23 years old, with an acclaimed legacy already under his belt, his prime is still 3 years out.
When that becomes available, it supersedes any and all other needs a franchise may have.
Sources confirmed that the Yankees have reached out to the Nationals for preliminary talks on the outfielder, and have the type prospects to package that would entice the Nationals who want an unprecedented haul.
To get Soto, whose accolades include two Silver Sluggers and a batting title, and he was last year’s runner-up National League MVP, teams may have to empty their farm system’s upper echelon. Though at 23, Soto isn’t much older than many top prospects and he’s already proven himself to be a star — perhaps a generational hitter — amassing a 21 WAR in his first five big-league seasons. The Yankees’ top two prospects, for example, Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, are 21 and 22, respectively. Of New York’s top eight prospects ranked in the preseason by Keith Law, only outfielder Jasson Dominguez is younger than 21. Soto won’t cost just prospects; he’s making $17.1 million this season and stands to get a considerable raise next year in arbitration. But the Yankees have deep pockets and a deep farm system.
Any hypothetical acquisition of Soto immediately brings up the question of Yankees slugger Aaron Judge — who is a free agent at the end of the year — and his long-term future. But adding Soto wouldn’t preclude the Yankees from re-signing Judge. Soto has 2 1/2 years of team control and this is a win-now Yankees team. It would give them insurance if they fail to keep Judge, as locking up Soto — who turned down the Nationals’ offer of $440 million over 15 years — would then perhaps become a feasible option.
In the short-term, having Judge and Soto in the same lineup could be enough to help New York — which hasn’t won a World Series since 2009 — end that drought. Soto, part of the Nationals team that beat the 2019 Astros in the World Series, hit .333/.438/.741 with a 1.178 OPS and three homers in that series in his age-20 season.
This season has been considered a down year by Soto’s standards, as he’s hitting .250/.405/.497 with 20 homers in 91 games for the last-place Nationals, with more walks (79) than hits (78). Soto entered Friday with a career-high 26-game on-base streak over which he’s posted a .505 OBP. He leads baseball in walks and ranks among the NL leaders in OBP (2nd, .405), wRC+ (3rd, 152), wOBA (4th, .391), and OPS (5th, .901).
The Yankees, who entered Friday 64-30 with a 12-game divisional lead, will be a good team without Soto. They can still add another starter or make smaller upgrades elsewhere that keep their well-thought-of farm system mostly intact. They don’t have to make a big splash at the deadline to show they’re trying to win. But if the window for this team is now and if there are any concerns about New York’s inability to compete with Houston (61-32) during the regular season, what better morale booster than Soto, who isn’t a rental but under team control for the next three playoff runs? What better message to send to the rest of the league?
“A major acquisition like that is kind of the non-uniform personnel taking a huge risk and making a bet and stepping out on a limb and it always resonates with the players because it’s kind of what we do with our bodies,” Yankees ace Gerrit Cole said.
Blockbuster trade deadline deals can be a shot in the arm for a clubhouse, Cole has seen this firsthand. And the star right-hander is hoping the Yankees can deliver something in the next 10 days to put this year’s first-place team over the top.
“That’s been my experience,” Cole said of big additions bolstering morale, “So hopefully, we get what we are looking for. I think we are going to probably exhaust every single option we have. We need to do that, we need to exhaust every option. That’s the feeling I get (in the Yankees organization), and what everyone feels like we need to do.”