All eyes on Soto as Nats snap Dodgers' win streak

Superstar trade chip puts on show in Los Angeles as Trade Deadline looms

July 26th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Despite a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Nationals on Monday night at Dodger Stadium that snapped their season-long eight-game winning streak, the Dodgers still have the best record in the National League. They also have a healthy lead atop the NL West over the Padres and Giants. 

Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman -- the team’s three superstars -- have led the way on offense. The pitching staff has been stellar, even with Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin struggling in their first starts since the All-Star break. Even with the loss in the series opener against the Nationals, the Dodgers are 17-3 in July.

Los Angeles doesn’t have any real holes on the roster. They’ve looked every bit like the team most people predicted them to be during Spring Training. But they could always get better, particularly by adding a star player. And on Monday, all eyes were on superstar outfielder Juan Soto.

Acquiring Soto, who is on the trade block, would give the Dodgers another deadly weapon in the middle of the lineup. Adding him isn’t a need. But he could be the difference-maker in what the Dodgers hope is another deep postseason run.

“If there’s something that makes sense, I have all the confidence in our guys that they’ll pull the trigger. If not, and it’s status quo, then we’ll move forward,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on trade speculations. “The fans are going to do what the fans are going to do, and the media. But as far as us, that’s out of our control. We’re trying to get [Soto] out.”

The Dodgers struggled to retire Soto, who went 2-for-4 with a walk and delivered the big blow, a two-out, two-run triple off Gonsolin in the fifth inning. Soto showed why about a dozen teams, the Dodgers included, are drooling over the possibility of adding him to their organization.

Fans in attendance also took notice, chanting “Future Dodger!” at Soto during his first at-bat of the night. It’s also a chant that broke out in the bleachers during last week’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.

“I mean, it sounds pretty fun,” Soto said pregame, when asked about the chants. “But at the end of the day, I’m glad they’re cheering for me. I don’t mind whatever they’re saying. They’re saying something good. I think I’m just enjoying it.”

Landing Soto in a trade within the next week won’t be easy, however. Aside from the hefty competition to acquire him, the Nationals are rightfully asking for a massive haul for one of the best hitters of this generation. Washington would want young, controllable players in a deal, according to sources.

The Dodgers have plenty of guys in the Minors who would attract teams. Now, it’s up to the front office to determine how much they’re willing to give up to land the 23-year-old superstar. A deal for Soto would likely require the Dodgers to think about trading one or both of the top two prospects in the organization, catcher Diego Cartaya and right-hander Bobby Miller.

That would be a start, as Washington would likely ask for at least a couple more prospects. Or, they could ask the Dodgers for fewer prospects if they’re willing to part ways with a young established player like Gavin Lux or right-hander Dustin May. The Dodgers would prefer not to trade from the big league roster, though it’s not completely off the table, per sources.

It’s not a cheap price, but three postseasons with Soto in the lineup could be worth it for the Dodgers. Los Angeles could also choose to re-sign him when his current deal expires after the 2024 season. That deal, however, would cost about half a billion dollars over a long period of time.

“Obviously it’s hard for me to talk about specific players on other teams,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who watched a few innings from the stands on Monday with owner Mark Walter, told SportsNet LA before Monday’s game. “But I will echo what I’ve said in the past that star players don’t come available very often. So when they are, we owe it to our fans to be by the blackboard and see those things out. We’ve been fortunate to line up on some, but obviously there’s a lot that goes into that.”

Before Monday’s game, Soto had his Home Run Derby trophy and chain inside the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are also trying to bring some hardware back into the building. They hope that happens after a long run in October.

Will Soto help them get there? We’ll find out soon.