'Right now, I'm here and I'm a National': Soto focused as Deadline looms

July 31st, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto walked off the field at Nationals Park on Sunday with just over 48 hours to go until the Trade Deadline. For the 23-year-old star outfielder at the center of the baseball rumor circuit, the clock is ticking toward 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

“I just want to get it over with and see what’s going to happen,” Soto said following the Nationals’ 5-0 loss to the Cardinals. “I mean, just go over that day and start over here or wherever I’m at.”

The Nats’ opponent in this three-game weekend series was also their trade partner last year in a Jon Lester-Lane Thomas swap that capped off their Trade Deadline roster revamp. The clubs have been linked in recent buzz, only this season, the potential stakes are a lot higher than a veteran pitcher on an expiring contract and a lesser-utilized young outfielder.

St. Louis is one of the organizations in the mix of the Soto blockbuster trade talks. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak were shown sitting together on Sunday’s broadcast.

While that conversation remained behind closed doors, Mozeliak recently commented on Soto to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I think what’s rare is the timing. We traded for Paul Goldschmidt. We traded for Nolan Arenado. But that’s the only thing about that player. Age.”

In an MLB.com poll of 17 front-office executives, the Cardinals received three votes as the favorites to acquire Soto. The Padres (eight) and Dodgers (seven) ranked highest as contenders.

St. Louis, though, has a deep pool of prospects. Its farm system, which was ranked No. 16 this preseason by MLB Pipeline, includes five Top-100 prospects:

  • No. 6 overall/Cardinals’ No. 1, third baseman Jordan Walker, 20, Double-A
  • No. 43 overall/Cardinals’ No. 2, left-hander Matthew Liberatore, 22, Triple-A
  • No. 80 overall/Cardinals’ No. 3, catcher Ivan Herrera, 22, Triple-A
  • No. 87 overall/Cardinals’ No. 4, shortstop Masyn Wynn, 20, Double-A
  • No. 98 overall/Cardinals’ No. 5, right-hander Gordon Graceffo, 22, Double-A

Beyond those working toward their debuts, the Cardinals’ roster features several young players with early Major League experience, as well. Left-handed second baseman Nolan Gorman, 22, has appeared in 58 games since debuting on May 20. He is batting .238/.314/.444 with a .758 OPS, including a home run on Friday at Nats Park. Outfielder Dylan Carlson, 23, debuted in 2020 and has played in 267 games for St. Louis. He is slashing .250/.318/.405 with a .723 OPS this season.

While hypothetical trade packages from multiple teams will be mentioned leading up to the Tuesday Deadline, Soto is staying locked in on the immediate future. Next on his schedule: The Nationals open a home series on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Mets and former Nats ace Max Scherzer, who was traded to the Dodgers one year ago.

“Just see the jersey you’re wearing,” Soto said. “You’re wearing the Nationals jersey. You’re here, and right now, I’m here and I’m a National. So I just go out there as a professional, as a National, and I just play for them as hard as I can.”