It’s no secret that things have gone south between the Washington Nationals and their super star outfielder Juan Soto. With the team rumored to soon be up for sale and the future uncertain, the 23 year old Dominican turned down a 15 year, $440 million contract extension to stay in D.C. None the less, Soto remains loyal to his employers and conducted himself professionally during the All-Star proceedings in Los Angeles, even after ownership refused to charter a flight for him to arrive early and participate in the Home Run Derby. Instead, Soto boarded a commercial jet, arriving at 1:30 in the morning on the day of the event. And as we all know, he won.
Cellar-dwellers in the NL East, the Nats have seemingly decided to rebuild and have dangled Soto as a prize fish in potential trade bait. The problem is that there are only a few teams in either league with the resources and farm system to accommodate Washington’s needs. The San Francisco Giants will need another potent bat to stay in contention in the NL West, and have some key pieces on the 40 man roster to entice Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, starting with highly touted 20 year old shortstop Marco Luciano. But according to ESPN’s Buster Onley, the front-runners in the Soto sweepstakes are the San Diego Padres. CJ Abrams, currently the team’s top prospect, will become expendable once Fernando Tatis Jr.returns to the lineup in a couple of weeks. Young lefty pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Adrian Morejon could also sweeten the pot, along with slugging catcher Luis Campusano and speedy outfielder Esteury Ruiz. In addition, all of those players have varsity experience.
Padres GM A.J. Preller is known as a workaholic, but he has a lot on his plate right now. Besides Soto, another player on his wish list is Chicago Cubs all-star catcher Willson Contreras. The Cubbies will certainly want a decent receiver in return, either Austin Nola or Jorge Alfaro, plus some pitching help and maybe a utility player like Ruiz or Matt Batten. So Preller needs to be careful not to stretch the roster too thin and maintain adequate depth. A.J. is also under the gun to extend the contract of hometown hero Joe Musgrove, San Diego’s all-star pitcher who will be a free agent in 2023. Back in May, Preller had hoped the big righthander would accept a San Diego “discount” at $90 million over eight years. Musgrove politely declined.
Insider Onley says the Nats will be looking to make a deal for Soto before the August 2nd trade deadline, however they could wait since he is under team control for two more years. The main issue is that Soto already makes $17 million on a team that is looking shed payroll. So the clock is ticking, and San Diego’s Preller is a guy who often waits until the last minute to make a deal.