Where might Soto land? Let's rank the contenders

July 30th, 2022

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Juan Soto could get traded any minute now. Any minute now! Isn’t that absurd? One of the best players in baseball -- a superstar young player who could instantly turn a pennant race entirely by himself -- is on the market. Right now! I know people are starting to feel Soto trade rumor exhaustion, but really, it’s not that strange that people can’t stop talking about it: It is Juan Soto, after all.

So then, while I have you -- and before he actually gets traded -- let’s sneak in some Juan Soto Trade Destination Power Rankings. Every team that I think is a plausible candidate to acquire him before Tuesday's Trade Deadline is here (14 in total), including few who may seem a little out of nowhere. Every team could use him, and it’s entirely possible a team I don’t list below will be the one to get him. With that in mind, here are some “educated” guesses on where he might go.

1. Padres

Basically, any team that trades for Soto this year has to meet at least two, maybe three of four major requirements. They need to: a) desperately want to win right now; b) have the wherewithal to potentially re-sign him; c) have enough prospects to give the Nationals what they want; and d) have the sort of front office personality that’s willing to swing big. Of all the teams in baseball, then, the Padres strike me as the perfect fit. They might not necessarily have the best farm system, but they’ve got enough top-level guys (and just as important, the depth) to make the Nationals pay attention, shown a willingness to go up in payroll, would love to make a big playoff splash right now, and more than anything are willing to go for it, man. This would be a blast to see: It is (tentatively) my pick.

2. Dodgers

I almost feel a little silly not having them No. 1. They have the prospects, the money and the historical inclination, to say the least: Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to wake up and just see every great player on the Dodgers. There aren’t many ways a team this good can get better, but Soto would do it instantly, and they’d certainly have the payroll to maybe start working on an extension. The only question here is whether this front office will feel that much urgency to go after Soto right now, considering they’re heavy favorites to win the NL West not just this year, but the next two years as well. But the fit here is obvious.

3. Yankees

Talk about a team that should go for it. A Yankees outfield of Judge/Stanton/Soto would be so ridiculous that it would even maybe embarrass Yankees fans … OK, maybe not, but you get the point. The Yankees could use Soto as either a Judge sales pitch or a replacement. Is getting a top-five player piling on for a Yankees team that’s having a historically great season? Of course: That’s the Yankees Way, after all. This could legitimately come down to whether or not the Yankees are willing to trade top prospect Anthony Volpe. If they are … Soto could absolutely be in this lineup by next week. Which is terrifying.

4. Mariners

Now this would be fun. The idea of Julio Rodríguez and Soto patrolling the same outfield for the next three (and maybe four) pennant chases makes us want to go out and buy matching Mariners jerseys for us and our dog. The Mariners may come the closest to the Padres as the team that meets all four categories: They’ve got a good farm system, they should have some money to spend, GM Jerry DiPoto just traded several distant relatives of mine back and forth in the last 20 minutes and obviously, the Mariners have a little postseason drought they’re particularly anxious to end. Some might have them higher here, but for all the aggressive moves this franchise has made, have they made one this aggressive? And do they have enough prospects?

5. Cardinals

You see the Cardinals topping a lot of these lists, and on the surface, it makes sense. They’ve got some true top-shelf prospects (and could trade Dylan Carlson, whom Soto would presumably replace), they should have some money to spend (Soto’s next contract would start right when Paul Goldschmidt’s ends), and they’re trying to win, particularly this year, the last year for Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. But you’ll have to forgive this longtime Cardinals observer for being extremely skeptical that this particular front office and ownership group -- a notoriously cautious one that values its prospects and depth like the Shroud of Turin -- will do what it takes to bring in a player of Soto’s caliber. It’s just not really in the Cardinals’ DNA. Even their more recent trades for Nolan Arenado and Goldschmidt were more opportunistic than flat-out aggressive. Regardless of the fit, it’d be a jaw-dropper to see it actually happen.

6. Giants

The Giants have one of those lineups that is a perfect complementary lineup for a superstar at its middle … except there’s no superstar in the middle. Enter Soto. They’ve got plenty of payroll room, some tempting prospects and are in the NL Wild Card race. But is this the personality of this franchise? It could be, you know: They’re clearly set up long-term, payroll-wise, to get somebody huge. It might as well be Soto.

7. Blue Jays

Hey, if they’d have had Soto, maybe they would have scored 40 runs against the Red Sox! The left-handed hitting Soto is a perfect fit in this righty-heavy lineup. They might need the market to come down to them a little bit -- they have one of the weaker systems on this list -- but this team has felt a little listless this year. No team would appreciate the jetpack that is Soto more.

8. Mets

The whole notion of not trading with a team in your division is a bit silly: As hard as it would be for Nats fans to see Soto in a Mets uniform, they might enjoy having just about every top-shelf Mets prospect in their own uniform, showing the Mets what they could have had for the next six years. The Mets are certainly motivated, though you do sort of wonder if their play here would be to wait for Soto to hit the free agent market (if he hits the free agent market) and then blow him away with an offer. Either way: The Mets are going to be in on this -- and just about everything, really -- one way or another.

9. Rays

Put this in the “you’ve gotta believe they really went hard after Freddie Freeman” camp, but a move like this would fit the Rays’ window. Put Soto in the middle of that lineup and everybody’s better, and you have enough, surely, to win the AL Wild Card this year and be a contender in the AL East for the next two years. It’s a big swing, and someday, the Rays might just make one of this caliber.

10. Red Sox

If you’re going to admit that you should have just extended Mookie Betts, there are worse ways to do so than trading for and extending Juan Soto.

11. Guardians

They wouldn’t be serious contenders to sign Soto long-term. But for the next three pennant chases? A team always in need of outfielders would suddenly have the best one. They’ve got the prospects for it.

12. Twins

Carlos Correa is proof they’re willing to do the “get a superstar for a short period of time” thing, and their system isn’t bad, but this is maybe a little bit too big for them.

13. Rangers

They’re willing to spend, as evidenced by last winter’s Corey Seager and Marcus Semien contracts, and they’ve got some serious sluggers in the higher levels of their farm system. But part of the impetus to bringing in Soto right now is that you’d get him for three playoff chases. The Rangers aren’t in this one, and if we’re being honest, probably won’t be part of the next one. Don’t be surprised to see them go all out for him when/if he hits the free agent market though.

14. Cubs

They would adore him so much there, and he makes a ton of sense as a guy to build a signature franchise around. But they seem too far away to make it worth their while.