Are the Mets really in the running for Soto?

July 21st, 2022

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Juan Soto, New York Met?

Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? While it’s never wise to assume that a player of Soto’s caliber will be dealt at any point, last weekend’s news that Soto reportedly rejected a $440 million contract offer from the Nationals, who subsequently put him on the trading block, makes the idea of him playing for the Mets at least a possibility.

After this season, Soto has two years remaining under team control at significant eight-figure arbitration deals. (He’s making $17.1 million this season.) Any team that acquires him would probably need to have at least some interest in offering an extension, at what might become MLB’s first contract worth half a billion.

Could the Mets be that team? Your Soto questions answered:

No, seriously, could the Mets actually be that team?
Since buying the Mets in November 2020, Steve Cohen has traded for Francisco Lindor and subsequently extended him on a $341 million contract; signed Max Scherzer to the highest per-annum deal (three years at $130 million) in MLB history; paid out by far the largest payroll in franchise history (which could soon exceed $300 million, depending on what the team does at the Trade Deadline); and more.

Adding Soto would only further the narrative that Cohen is willing to do whatever it takes to build a winner in Flushing. From this point forward, if a player becomes available -- whether that’s a top trade target such as Soto, or a free agent like Scherzer -- it’s fair to assume the Mets will be involved.

Do they have the prospect capital to pull off a deal?
Theoretically yes, because they have Francisco Álvarez. As MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect who is on the cusp of the Majors at age 20, Álvarez would be high on any team’s wish list. The Mets wouldn’t dangle Álvarez without a good reason, but Soto is a pretty good reason -- the type of player who makes general managers rethink the term “untouchable.”

It’s also safe to assume that Álvarez alone wouldn’t be enough. Other top prospects in the Mets' organization include Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio, Alex Ramirez, Mark Vientos and Matt Allan. It would almost certainly require a significant combination of those players to pry Soto away from the Nationals, even if the Mets supplement the deal by, say, taking on the bad contracts of Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin.

So yes, the Mets have the ability to do this deal, even as potential exists for them to be outbid by the Dodgers, Yankees or some other big-market team boasting a deep farm system.

Then again, saying the Mets can make a trade doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll want to. Over the past two years, Cohen has spoken often about wanting to become the Dodgers of the East, which means engineering a sustainable operation capable of pumping out quality homegrown players on a regular basis. Lopping off the top of their farm would run counter to that goal, even if the return is a generational talent.

Is Soto worth it?
Yeah, he’s probably worth it. Consider that his “down” season includes a .901 OPS, a league-leading 79 walks and a league-adjusted OPS+ of 162, all with little protection (outside Josh Bell) in the Nationals' lineup.

Seen through that prism, Soto has only underscored his talent and value. He’s still just 23 years old with no significant injury history. More than that, he’s the type of vibrant personality around whom the Mets (or any team) could happily revolve their marketing for the next decade. Soto is a face-of-the-franchise type player, with the skillset to back it up.

Surround him with better hitters than his current teammates, and the ceiling becomes limitless.

What are they saying?
Asked specifically about the Mets at All-Star media day, Soto grinned and told reporters: “Playing in New York against the Mets, I love it. I love to play against them and hit the ball far. If you’ve seen my numbers at that field, it’s amazing.”

Mets players also gushed about the possibility of Soto in Flushing.

“It would be phenomenal,” said outfielder Starling Marte, who has known Soto for years. “He’s one of those players that you look at and say, ‘Wow, that’s a tremendous ballplayer.’ I’m really proud of the way he’s played in his career, the way he’s acted in his career. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t have any flaws.”