As the All-Star break is upon us, reports have surfaced that following the rejection of the latest extension offer by the Nationals for Juan Soto — allegedly worth $440 million dollars — that Washington may be open to dealing its prized star outfielder, and with that, all hell breaks loose.
Now, it must first be pointed out that this doesn’t mean the Nationals will in fact trade Soto by the deadline. However, it is the first report that the organization will be open to the idea of trading him if they’re blown away with the offer.
From an idealistic standpoint, virtually any organization should be on the phone checking in on one of the top five hitting talents in the game — a man who has accrued 21 career WAR at just 23 years of age and will only hit free agency in the 2024-25 offseason. But understanding the nuances of the sport, the Yankees may be one of the very few teams properly positioned for making a run at a superstar like Juan Soto.
The Yankees’ farm system also has the depth to consider this move. The minor league talent pool is currently led by Anthony Volpe, one of the premier shortstop prospects in the game, and he is all but a certain part of this hypothetical package for Soto. Volpe represents only a small sliver of the depth that an organization like the Nationals is sorely lacking at this point.
While Soto’s future contract will break records, his 2022 salary wouldn’t break the bank for the Yankees, as he’s set to make $17.1 million this year. Although the organization already has a payroll above the luxury tax, it could look to dump the Joey Gallo contract before the end of the year.
It’s hard to determine what sort of package would be enough to acquire Soto. This situation doesn’t have a ton of precedent beyond the Miguel Cabrera trade, in which the Marlins took two of the ten best prospects in all of baseball (Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin), and four other young players from the Tigers’ organization in exchange for the 24-year-old future Hall of Famer and contract dump Dontrelle Willis. That was 2007, too, when front offices across the sport were much different as a whole. All reports indicate that the Nationals would probably need to be overwhelmed to consider accepting an offer right now (the offseason seems more likely). But working under the assumption that they actually trade him, the Yankees have one of the better shots at acquiring him.
The Yankees' biggest adversary right now, and the likely team to get the second bye in the American League, is the Houston Astros. In this recent run, the Astros have been pretty aggressive in acquiring talent for a playoff run, from the days of Justin Verlander through the Zack Greinke trade.
However, the Astros’ system isn’t the same as in years past. Despite Hunter Brown’s emergence as one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the game, the Astros don’t really have the farm system to make a realistic run at Juan Soto, and although the willingness from an organizational standpoint may be there, the fit simply isn’t.
One can pretty much rule out the AL Central as things currently stand, and as far as the Boston Red Sox, it’s a bit of the opposite case of the Houston Astros. The Red Sox farm system has been properly retooled following their championship run in 2018, with the likes of Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, and 2021 No. 4 overall pick Marcelo Mayer all flourishing.
However, even looking beyond the impending free agency of Xander Bogaert and the need to re-sign Rafael Devers, the Red Sox have a number of tricky decisions to make. And only focusing on the black hole in production that currently is right field in Boston, the Red Sox haven’t shown the aggressiveness from an organizational standpoint to make this type of move. Remember, this is the same regime that couldn’t reach an agreement with Mookie Betts and dealt him a year before free agency. Although it’s possible, it’s unrealistic to expect that they’d move in on Soto with an eye on an extension.
The Blue Jays may have the least unlikely odds out of the bunch, considering Alejandro Kirk’s All-Star first half and a certain willingness to move Gabriel Moreno combined with other intriguing names on the farm system, but even that move seems somewhat unlikely.
It takes a very specific set of requirements to truly go after Juan Soto, and the Yankees fit those better than any other team in the American League. What this pursuit would mean for Aaron Judge’s impending free agency is unknown; nevertheless, it brings up two different points. First and foremost, a trade for Soto doesn’t and shouldn’t change the team’s stance on bringing back Judge. Soto’s free agency is to come after the 2024 season, and by then the Yankees will have some players coming off the books.
Secondly, if anything, this trade would give the Yankees some insurance, in the case for whatever reason Judge ends up with another team. Even if the Yankees do make all the efforts to bring him back, that is a reality that one must acknowledge with any impending free agent.
Soto is the kind of all-world player who a star-studded team like the Yankees should never shy away from. No matter how much they might love their prospects, Soto’s combination of youth and talent makes him a unicorn in this sport. It will not be easy by any means to earn the winning bid to pry Soto away from the Nationals, but if Washington is even remotely interested in the possibilities of the Yankees’ farm system, then Brian Cashman should be working the phone nonstop for Soto, essentially offering up anything and everything.