It’s not often that a generational hitter becomes available at the Trade Deadline, but that figures to be the case this year with Nationals superstar Juan Soto.
The Nationals are reportedly entertaining trade proposals for the 23-year-old Soto after news broke that he turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension offer earlier this month. Soto is under team control through 2024, so rival executives are split on whether he’ll actually be moved prior to Tuesday’s 3 p.m. PT Trade Deadline. Still, that won’t stop the rampant speculation over which team could be best positioned to make a play for the two-time All-Star outfielder.
Could the Giants be that team? Let’s break it down.
Would Soto be a fit for the Giants?
Any club would love to have Soto, but he’d fit in especially well with the Giants, who currently lack the star power to keep pace with the Dodgers and the Padres in the National League West. A left-handed slugger, Soto is known for his otherworldly plate discipline, recording a .426 career on-base percentage with a .965 OPS and 118 home runs over parts of five seasons in the Majors. He could immediately slide into the middle of the Giants’ lineup and fill some of the talent void left by the retirement of franchise icon Buster Posey.
Adding Soto would also help the Giants get younger and more dynamic, two qualities that are sorely missing from the current roster.
What would it take to get Soto?
The cost would be undeniably steep. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that Washington would want four to five young players, either prospects or Major Leaguers with low service time, as a return for Soto. Since Soto won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season, the Nationals have no reason to come off their lofty demands -- if no one is willing to meet their asking price now, they could simply wait until the offseason and revisit trade possibilities then.
Between shortstop Marco Luciano, left-hander Kyle Harrison, outfielder Luis Matos and others, the Giants probably have the prospect capital to put together a package for Soto, though doing so would deplete a farm system that hasn’t been churning out as much impact talent as expected in recent years. Even so, the Giants could get creative and try to offset the cost by taking on the bad contracts of Patrick Corbin or Stephen Strasburg.
Soto, who appears to be on a Hall of Fame track, would almost certainly be worth the exorbitant price. The team that acquires him would probably have interest in signing him to a long-term extension, though it’s worth noting that Soto is represented by Scott Boras, who prefers for his clients to establish their full value in free agency. Soto is owed $17.1 million in 2022 and will likely command hefty raises in his final two seasons of arbitration. If he stays healthy and productive, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him land MLB’s first half a billion dollar contract.
The Giants have shied away from giving out massive long-term deals under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, but they certainly have the financial means to do so. They previously made runs at Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, so they shouldn’t be ruled out in the Soto sweepstakes.
Where do rival executives think Soto will land?
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand polled 17 MLB executives and asked them to name the three teams they think are the frontrunners to trade for Soto. The Padres were first with eight votes, followed by the Dodgers with seven. The Cardinals, Mariners, Mets, Rays and Yankees received three votes each to tie for third place.
The Giants, who received two votes, aren’t viewed as the favorites for Soto at this point, though perhaps they’ll be better off keeping their prospects and going after Yankees slugger Aaron Judge this offseason. Judge, a Linden, Calif., native and Fresno State product, grew up rooting for the Giants and will be eligible for free agency at the end of the year.