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Juan Soto just went deep for the sixth time this season and, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan pointed out, has only amounted to seven RBI. Not a typical monstrous opening month of a season out of the 23-year-old superstar, however those numbers do tell a story: The Washington Nationals’ offense isn’t getting on base around Soto because the roster isn’t any good. So now we must ask what the team plans on doing with Soto, who’s set to become a free agent in October, 2024.
The time might be now for a mega deal. Either that or fork over possibly the largest contract in baseball history. Will a team failing to compete with bad contracts all over the roster do such a thing? They probably should but we’ve seen crazier things in sports.
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— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 5, 2022
Perhaps the craziest stat of the first month: Juan Soto has six home runs … and seven RBI.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 5, 2022
Trading a young superstar doesn’t usually mean the team wants to get rid of a player. Often times, it signifies poor timing to compete while said player is due for a monstrous extension. Juan Soto is expected by most executives to command a contract surpassing 10 years that’ll likely pay the World Series champion slugger north of $35 million a year. Do the math and any hypothetical deal north of a decade in length at that annual cost is running a team near the $400 million mark. Angels centerfielder Mike Trout surpassed that threshold at $426.5 million and Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. got close at $360 million.
All ridiculously young and talented around the time of signing on the dotted line. Our common denominator, however, is the team’s ability to compete. The Angels made promises they’d acquire pitching to get that potent offense to the playoffs and the Padres were an up-and-coming roster competing with the Dodgers. Juan Soto has no path whatsoever to compete for a World Series title in the foreseeable future. Possibly a factor that could scare the Nationals away from an extension that may end with a blockbuster deal.
We won’t bother guessing where he’ll end up
Pretending one landing spot makes sense over another would be a waste of time. Juan Soto has the personality to thrive in any market, and it’s obvious Soto loves to play. Backing up the Brink’s truck for the lefty slugger shouldn’t impact his exuberant personality on the field. He’s coming ready to play — it’s all a matter of building a roster around him. Most major markets in baseball will do so.
Will the Washington Nationals end up trading him? It always sounds like a bad idea to deal a player of Soto’s caliber, but the haul in return would be something fierce. Essentially the Nationals would take their pick of any team’s best four or five prospects, likely thrusting their own farm system to the top of MLB.com’s rankings.
And don’t get us wrong. Who cares about farm systems when you have Juan Soto? We aren’t necessarily wishing Soto exits Washington as much as we’re hoping he gets another crack at the postseason. Baseball is better when the game’s best reach the biggest stage.