There isn’t anyone more desirable at this year’s MLB trade deadline than Juan Soto. He’s a 23-year-old slugger with more potential than a boulder sitting at the top of a steep hill (that’s a science joke for all the professors out there). It was clear that several teams were going to call the Nationals about Soto as soon as his availability became public knowledge, and with less than a week before the trade deadline, several teams have been rumored to be in the race for Soto. In fact, if everyone is to be believed. Almost every team is a “frontrunner” to land last year’s NL MVP runner-up.
Just go on Twitter and search “Soto frontrunner(s).” You’ll find a myriad of stories, tweets, and takes from verified MLB accounts claiming a multitude of teams are “close to landing the Nationals’ superstar.” Most of them revolve around the Cardinals, but I’ve seen ones with the Dodgers, Mariners, Giants, Padres, Yankees — though the Bronx Bombers just traded for Andrew Benintendi — Mets, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays, and Guardians. You could create a menagerie with all the teams “leading the charge” for Soto.
The Nationals’ have allegedly received so many “insane offers” that they must be drowning in prospects they can pick and choose. It’s got me thinking that one of two things will happen:
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Scenario 1: Soto is traded away for far more than we originally thought. We thought he’d be worth an entire farm system, but if these many teams are interested and the frontrunner keeps rotating, then that must mean the auction keeps getting higher. The moment the metaphorical auctioneer starts saying “going once, twice” another buyer pops in and ups the ante. We all knew the baseline would be extreme, but you have to think that it’s getting out of hand at this point if these many teams are still in the running and a deal hasn’t been reached. Then, there’s the other, more likely, option:
Scenario 2: With so many teams vying for Soto, the Nationals realize that Soto’s market won’t deteriorate if he stays with the team for the rest of the season. More time with Soto gives other teams more time to up their offers, and that might be a decent strategy for the Nationals. Early Wednesday, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo even stated during an interview with Audacy’s 106.7 The Fan that Washington can afford to be patient with his rights. They know that the market for Soto won’t diminish after the trade deadline passes and if he truly believes he can get more for him, why wouldn’t he wait?
The odds are that teams are lining up with offers, each better than the last. That bidding war might get put on hold once Aug. 2 comes and goes, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will get picked back up full force when trade negotiations are opened up again. Furthermore, holding onto Soto would only tell every team right now that their offers aren’t close to what the Nationals are looking for. That implied statement would give every team a chance to take a look in the mirror and come back with something monumentally better after months of not being able to negotiate. It’d be risky, but in this case, probably a very beneficial bargaining tactic.
Contrary to what Sports Illustrated says, the Nationals are in no hurry to trade away their generational talent. The fact that so many teams are still rumored to be in on Soto is evidence that no matter how long they wait, a player of Soto’s age and talent level will always have an enormous trade market. There will come a time when his value will decrease due to the lack of time left on his contract, but that moment isn’t for another several months.
Of course, there’s volatility in playing the waiting game. Just like the stock market, holding on too long before selling can lead to missing out on the peak. Potential buyers could get impatient and back out. Soto could get hurt and destroy his value. The fact that so many teams are still coming in with improved offers seemingly every day is evidence enough that this is a game worth playing if you’re the Nats. I don’t expect him to be traded by the deadline.