Padres linked to superstar trade candidate Juan Soto

May 11, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto (22) exits the dugout after the game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
May 11, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto (22) exits the dugout after the game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports /
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MLB exec names Padres as likely suitor in Juan Soto trade rumors

Could the San Diego Padres actually acquire Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals?

Better question, would the Nationals really be so bold as to trade one of the best young talents in the game?

The Nationals unloaded a significant amount of talent at last summer’s trade deadline, presumably under the guise of preparing to sign Soto to an enormous extension. Among the many transactions, they sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Padres got Daniel Hudson.

However, Soto confirmed in February that he had turned down the Nationals’ offer of a 13-year extension with an eye-popping $350M paycheck. While it was certainly a generous offer, it’s one the Nationals had to expect he’d say thanks but no thanks; Soto, like their former stars, Scherzer and Bryce Harper, is repped by Scott Boras, the powerhouse agent known for getting his clients enormous contracts in free agency. He also currently reps several Padres: MacKenzie Gore, Eric Hosmer, Jurickson Profar, and Blake Snell.

The latest rumors and speculation suggest that since the Nationals know they’ll lose Soto to higher bidders when he becomes a free agent in 2025, they’re going to get proactive. After all, if they’re going to lose him either way, at least by trading him, they won’t walk away empty-handed. It’s not unlike the Boston Red Sox sending Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in 2020.

Will the Nationals actually trade Juan Soto?

At 23 years old, Soto is already a World Series champion and All-Star with a batting title and two Silver Slugger awards to his name. He finished second in NL MVP voting last year, behind Harper and ahead of Fernando Tatis Jr. Last year, he and Harper were the only two batters in the National League to draw 100+ walks, and Soto led all of MLB with 145 of them.

If the Padres want to get Soto, they’ll have to seriously deplete their farm system and prepare to pay him handsomely in arbitration; he and the Nationals avoided arbitration this year by agreeing to a $17.1M paycheck for the season.

However, the farm isn’t as bountiful as it was a few years ago. In February, Baseball America (subscription required) revealed their first organizational rankings of the year, and the Padres had plummeted. After being ranked top banana in 2019, second in 2020, and third in 2021, they fell all the way down to 21st. They have four prospects on the site’s Top 100 rankings, but that includes Gore, who debuted last month and looks to be sticking around at the big-league level. Do the Padres even have the prospects to make a trade of this magnitude?

Trading for Soto gets the Padres two and a half years of his prime but doesn’t guarantee that the Padres will retain him in free agency in a few years, either. Almost every team (that actually spends money) will at least express interest when his free agency rolls around, and there will be stiff competition.

Essentially, it comes down to whether or not they think Soto is the difference-maker who will lead the Padres to their first World Series championship. If they make the trade and still fail to go deep in the postseason, then they will have blown up their farm for nothing.

Will they risk it?

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