With news dropping last week that Juan Soto had reportedly turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract, the baseball world was turned on its head. All of a sudden, one of the premier players in MLB could be on the trading block, with more than two full seasons of team control remaining. While it’s not a guarantee he will be shipped out of Washington this season, a move is looking more and more likely.
It would probably make sense for all 29 other teams to be in on the charismatic 23-year-old outfielder, but only a handful of teams are realistic landing spots, given the money and prospects likely required. There’s also almost no precedent for a player of Soto's caliber being dealt while this young and at this point in his career.
The Marlins' trade of Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers following his age-24 season in 2007 might be the closest comp. In that one, Detroit made out extraordinarily well by acquiring Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for a six-prospect package headlined by outfielder Cameron Maybin and lefty Andrew Miller. Those two both went on to have success during lengthy MLB careers, but Cabrera was a franchise-changing addition for the Tigers, who signed him to an extension and still have him on the roster almost 15 years later.
With all that in mind, MLB.com saddled seven writers with the tall task of submitting Soto trade proposals from clubs that stand out initially as possible destinations. Take a look and see if you think any of these would get the job done.
From division foe to Mets hero?
Mets get: OF Juan Soto
The Mets’ farm system (ranked 20th by MLB Pipeline entering the season) might not be quite as deep as some of its likely competitors in the Soto sweepstakes. But New York boasts more than enough high-end talent to put together a compelling package -- one that would at the very least force the Nationals to consider trading their young superstar within the NL East.
In this scenario, Washington would receive four Top 100 Prospects, three of whom are nearing the Majors. The 20-year-old Álvarez -- who was recently promoted to Triple-A after hitting .277 with 18 home runs and a .921 OPS in 67 games at Double-A -- is as exciting an offensive prospect as there is in baseball; and that doesn’t even account for the fact that he plays a premium position at catcher. As reluctant as the Mets might be to move him, it’s difficult to see any sort of deal getting done without him, and the club’s selection of Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft would at least lessen the blow.
Baty, Mauricio and Ramirez round out the other prospects involved in this package, while the 26-year-old Peterson -- who has a 3.24 ERA this season and is under team control through 2025 -- would give the Nats a proven big league arm. That said, losing Peterson would also damage a Mets starting rotation that’s still awaiting Jacob deGrom’s return.
Even then, the opportunity to add a player of Soto’s caliber is one that New York can’t pass up. The right fielder -- who owns a .350/.464/.709 slash line with 10 homers and a 1.173 OPS in 30 games at Citi Field -- would bring a stabilizing force to a lineup that, despite averaging 4.7 runs per game, has been rather inconsistent. And with him, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor in the fold for at least the next 2 1/2 years, the possibility of the Mets achieving owner Steve Cohen’s goal of capturing one World Series title -- if not more -- by 2025 seems all that more realistic.
-- Pat James
Soto teams with Judge, then … replaces him?
Yankees get: OF Juan Soto
Just for a second, imagine a lineup featuring Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Soto -- three of the most awe-inspiring offensive forces in the sport. And if Judge, who you might’ve heard turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension in April, does leave in free agency, well, at least the Yankees would have a worthy (and much younger) replacement in Soto.
With the Nationals aiming to retool on the fly rather than embark on a long rebuild, they’re going to covet a package that combines elite prospects and young, controllable players. The Yankees can make that happen as they push toward their first title since 2009, but it would take a big bite out of their roster and a hefty chunk out of the top of their deep farm system, too.
Still only 25, Torres is having a bounceback year (.484 SLG, 130 OPS+) now that he’s back at second base, while the 27-year-old Cortes is an All-Star for the first time amid a breakout campaign (2.63 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.3 K/9). They are under club control through 2024 and '25, respectively, so the Nationals, who need help across the board, would be getting a proven big league bat and arm.
What might entice them enough to part with Soto, however, is a trio of Top 100 Prospects on top of that. The 21-year-old Volpe -- New York’s top pick in the 2019 Draft and MLB Pipeline’s 2021 Hitting Prospect of the Year after racking up 27 homers, 33 steals and a 1.027 OPS -- already is at Double-A and considered the Yanks’ shortstop of the future. That said, it’s hard to imagine a deal getting done without him, and they still have Isiah Kiner-Falefa to handle short, DJ LeMahieu to replace Torres at second, plus infielders Oswald Peraza and Trey Sweeney in the pipeline.
One of the most hyped international prospects since signing for $5.1 million in 2019, Domínguez is a favorite among Yankees fans for his freakish tools and fun nickname. Just 19, “The Martian” flashed his plus power by homering in the Futures Game after learning he’d been promoted to High-A. While he’s likely a couple years away, his potential would grab the Nats’ attention.
Waldichuk, 24, is nearly MLB-ready, with a 2.44 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and a 13.6 K/9 across Double-A and Triple-A this season after his breakout in ’21. He and fellow southpaw Cortes would team with righty Josiah Gray and top pitching prospects Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry to form the start of a promising rotation in D.C.
-- Jason Catania
Dodgers add to their superstar stash
Dodgers get: OF Juan Soto, LHP Patrick Corbin, cash
Here are a couple of things we know about the Dodgers’ current regime: It isn't afraid to make a big splash to acquire a superstar, and it won’t shy away from taking on extra payroll to get what it wants in terms of talent. That makes L.A. an extremely dangerous entrant in any bidding for Soto.
While we have the Nationals contributing some cash here, the Dodgers in this scenario would take the struggling veteran Corbin and a significant portion of the money remaining on his contract, which pays him $23.4 million this year, $24.4 million next year and $35.4 million in 2024. L.A. could then try to make Corbin (5.84 ERA in 50 starts since 2021) its latest reclamation project or simply cut him if that doesn’t work. (Perhaps Stephen Strasburg could play the Corbin role here, but that would be more complicated due to his no-trade rights).
Even with Corbin’s involvement, of course, the prospect cost would be steep. But these teams matched up on last summer’s deal involving Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, so the Nats should have a good idea of what they want from the Dodgers’ deep system (ranked fifth by MLB Pipeline before the season). While L.A. can’t offer a Top 10 overall prospect as a headliner, this package would give Washington three Top 100 talents who aren’t far from the Majors in Miller, Pages and Vargas. The 24-year-old May was putting it all together and looking like an ace in the making last year before tearing his UCL, and he should be back from Tommy John surgery before the end of this season. However, the Dodgers hang on to top prospect Diego Cartaya (No. 13 overall), given that the Nats already took a young catcher (Keibert Ruiz) from them last year.
-- Andrew Simon
Tatis and Soto on one team? Just imagine
Padres get: OF Juan Soto
Yes, that's a lot of young, high-end prospects the Padres would be giving up: the 2021 No. 6 prospect in baseball Abrams, who's just 21; the 2017 No. 3 overall Draft pick and promising 23-year-old rookie southpaw Gore; the team's current top prospect and Top 25 overall prospect Hassell; San Diego's No. 8 prospect, the 21-year-old power-hitting Mears; a 23-year-old high-upside, high-90s-throwing big league lefty in Morejon. But this is Soto we're talking about. He could be one of the best hitters of his generation, if not ever. He's 23. And if you get him on a long-term deal, you could have a franchise-altering all-time great into the 2030s.
The Padres are a talent-rich organization, maybe one of the few that can assemble a package to blow the Nats away for Soto. And if you're the Padres and Soto is available, you have to pull out all the stops to try to get him. It might even take more than that offer up there -- say, the 19-year-old, 6-foot-7 outfielder and Top 100 prospect James Wood instead of Mears. But Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. in the same lineup for over a decade? That's a dream team.
-- David Adler
Giants land Barry Bonds 2.0
Giants get: OF Juan Soto
The Giants likely don’t have the right Major League talent to make a deal, but their most logical big leaguer to include would have to be Webb, who is 20-6 with a 2.94 ERA in 266 innings since the start of 2021. As much as that would set back the pitching staff, the idea of having Soto in the lineup is pretty tantalizing. He played like Barry Bonds in the second half last year, so imagine seeing Bonds in a Giants uniform again, in a way.
The Giants have three Top 100 Prospects right now, so they would almost have to include them. The top three prospects each have a Major League ETA of 2023, per MLB Pipeline, and Ramos has already had multiple stints in the bigs.
Plus, we know the outfielder is already great friends with one of Brandon Crawford’s sons. Who are we to deny a chance for that friendship to grow further?
-- Sarah Langs
Mariners have a Derby every day
Mariners get: OF Juan Soto
Giving up a big league quality starter, two Top 100 Prospects, a former Top 10 prospect and two promising arms may seem like a lot, but the Mariners shouldn’t think twice if they get the opportunity to pair two young superstars in Soto and Julio Rodríguez, who gave us a glimpse at the damage they could do during the 2022 T-Mobile Home Run Derby finals.
J-Rod hasn’t even played a full season yet, but he already looks like the guy in Seattle. The Mariners are in a position to win with a good mix of young talent and established veterans. They could sacrifice a bit of that young talent to get, well, another young talent in Soto. With J-Rod and Soto roaming the outfield at T-Mobile Park, it would immediately allow them to challenge the top teams in the AL for years to come.
Losing Kirby and Marte, who would be the two centerpieces in the deal, will hurt, but Seattle has a deep enough farm system to recover. Kirby impressed early in the season, posting a solid 3.78 ERA and an 8.7 K/9 in his first taste of the bigs, but they would be able to keep Logan Gilbert and Matt Brash (MLB No. 91 prospect) if they include him and Hancock. Marte is one of the best shortstop prospects in the game at 20 years old, but Edwin Arroyo (MLB No. 95 prospect) is two years younger and crushing in his second pro season.
This deal really hangs on what the Nationals think of Kelenic. The 23-year-old has struggled across 123 MLB games, hitting .173 with a .594 OPS, but just over a year ago, he was one of the premier prospects in all of baseball, ending 2020 as MLB Pipeline's No. 9 overall prospect -- six spots higher than Rodríguez. Had the news of Soto’s negotiations falling through dropped in 2021, he might have been untouchable in a deal. It all depends on what side of Kelenic the Nationals see, the phenom who impressed at every stop in the Minors and just needs a fresh start, or the guy who hasn’t panned out in MLB in nearly a full season’s worth of games.
-- Nick Aguilera
Rays become the team of “Juander”
Rays get: OF Juan Soto
The calculus for acquiring Soto is a little different for the Rays. While clubs such as the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers are eyeing the Nationals’ star with the aim of inking him to a fat contract, the Rays likely can’t entertain such a possibility since that new deal may feature a nine-figure number that begins with a five.
But with Soto still two-plus seasons away from free agency, any team can at least consider trading for him as long as it answer both of these questions in the affirmative:
- Will you take on his arbitration salary?
- Do you have the player capital to entice the Nationals?
The first question is more of a hurdle than the second for Tampa Bay. Soto is making $17.1 million this season in his second year of arbitration. That sum will obviously increase in 2023 and '24, making him the highest-paid player in franchise history for a single season.
If the Rays consider that price to not be too exorbitant, they could take on this generational player, pair him with Wander Franco for a couple of seasons and then possibly recoup some value by trading Soto before he reaches the open market.
As for question No. 2, coming up with a strong trade package shouldn’t prove too difficult. The Nationals want young, controllable, Major League-ready players? Tampa Bay has a glut of that. This proposal would have included Shane Baz if not for a current elbow injury that may sideline him for the rest of this year. Other recent top prospects -- Lowe, OF/2B/SS Vidal Bruján, right-hander Luis Patiño -- have yet to fully break out at the MLB level, but their ceilings remain high. Arozarena’s production has fallen off a little from last year, but he’s still a powerful, proven bat who won’t be a free agent until after 2026.
Tampa Bay entered this season with MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 farm system after being No. 1 at the start of 2020 and '21. Bradley would be a part of any swap for Soto, especially considering Baz’s injury and the franchise’s lack of elite pitching prospects otherwise. He holds a 1.70 ERA through 74 1/3 innings at Double-A this year and is coming off an appearance in the SiriusXM MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Mead, the Rays’ No. 2 prospect, has 38 extra-base hits and a .928 OPS through 70 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season.
-- Brian Murphy