Should the Washington Nationals trade Juan Soto? No. End of article. Just kidding, but it should be that simple. Recently, Buster Olney of ESPN explored the idea of the Washington Nationals doing the unthinkable: Trading Juan Soto.
You Don't Trade A Young Franchise Player
Juan Soto is the best hitter in MLB. There is almost no argument, here. Mike Trout is still Trout, but Soto is the second coming of Ted Williams. This is not hyperbole or a sin to say. Juan Soto is that good. His 2021 slash line was .313/.465/.534. His OPS was .999. He hit 29 home runs and led the league in walks with a whopping 145 of them. In 2022, he currently leads the league in walks again. Soto's 162 game average is 34 home runs with a slash line of .297/.429/.543. Soto is not a player you trade to start a rebuild, he is the player you rebuild around. Why is Olney discussing the Nationals possibly trading him?
Not That Simple, Apparently
According to Olney, "rival execs say the Nationals might well be compelled -- and motivated -- to move Soto this summer." Soto's free agency begins after the 2024 season. Soto's 2021 salary is $17.1 million this season. In his third year of arbitration eligibility, he's likely to earn a record salary through arbitration next season. The Nationals are also going through a transitional phase. the Nationals are for sale because general manager Mike Rizzo is in the last year of his current contract. Rizzo has shown a willingness to be aggressive in trades. In 2021, he traded franchise great Max Scherzer and stud Trea Turner to the Dodgers for two very good prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray. With Rizzo possibly on the way out, what will the next general manager look like as far as aggressive in trading or spending?
The other thing that changes this situation is that Juan Soto is represented by the notorious Scott Boras. Depending on who you ask and their principle beliefs, Boras is either a menace or a positive force for players getting the most of their free agency. Personally, having a player get paid what they deserve is never a bad thing, especially against owners who can afford far more than what they are paying their rosters. Is Boras' ability to get his players their biggest paycheck going to hinder the Nationals from signing him? The Nationals cannot let this happen.
Who Trades For Him and What Would They Give Up
If the Nationals are going to entertain the idea of trading Soto, they better get back the entire farm. For a player of Soto's once-in-a-lifetime talent, not only does young prospect talent has to be included in the deal, but a good player in their prime should also be sent back. I would imagine that whomever the team that would trade for Soto would also have in mind to sign him to a maximum deal in the $400 million range. There are a few teams who could do this, particularly the teams who already have the riches to give up.
(Please say the Dodgers)
For a player of Soto's caliber, a team like the Dodgers would have to give up a Bellinger/Buehler plus the organization's best two prospects. This is *not* a real rumor, I am just applying an example to show how much Soto would command. Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of operations, would only do something this wild if Soto was willing to sign some kind of long extension.
I don't care if the next GM of the Washington Nationals is a teenager whose only GM experience is playing MLB The Show—the Nationals should do everything in their power to re-sign Soto. If he truly isn't willing to sign with the Nationals, they better get back a king's ransom for a trade including the best hitter on planet earth.