Will the Washington Nationals end up trading away superstar Juan Soto? That is the million-dollar question.
The Nationals are staring at the bottom of the National League East division and might have no choice but to send away Soto and acquire a large number of assets to begin a rebuild.
So, could the San Diego Padres make a run at acquiring Soto? According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Padres are one team that makes sense in a potential deal.
Front-office types point to two teams that might be really motivated to move on Soto: The hyper aggressive San Diego Padres, who could dangle infielder C.J. Abrams and pitcher MacKenzie Gore; and the Blue Jays, who can dream on a left-handed star to complement the right-handed hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The Padres being suitors for Soto make too much sense in all aspects. For starters, general manager A.J. Preller has his back against the wall after depleting the farm and missing time and time again on several players. On top of that, the Padres outfield is questionable, and Wil Myers is set to leave after the 2022 season.
So, Soto to San Diego? It would take a gigantic offer from the Padres, but with Preller’s aggressiveness, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 23-year-old Dominican outfielder rocking the brown and yellow at some point.
On the other hand, there are several hurdles in a potential Soto deal. First of all, he rejected a massive 13-year, $350 million contract from the Nationals before the recent MLB lockout.
Washington #Nats star Juan Soto was offered a 13-year, $350 million contract extension that he turned down before the lockout, per @Enrique_Rojas1. Fernando Tatis Jr.received a 14-year, $340 million extension last spring from the #Padres
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 16, 2022
That extension is eerily similar to the one that Fernando Tatis Jr. received from the Padres, but Soto and his agent, Scott Boras, expect him to be valued higher than that once he hits free agency.
That brings up the second point: Soto isn’t set to hit the open market until 2024. Any team that acquires Soto has two years of team control and will have all of that time to try to work on an extension — although it seems unlikely that Boras and Soto will reach an agreement on an extension.
The reason being? The expected market value for Soto is the first-ever $500 million contract, and he will be just 26 years old.
The notion of Juan Soto receiving the first $500 million contract in American professional team sports is not far-fetched. He'll be 26. There's already a $43 million-a-year player in his former teammate, Max Scherzer. If he stays healthy and productive, it's very realistic.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 16, 2022
Back to the Padres: It would take a ton to land Soto.
C.J. Abrams and MacKenzie Gore will likely be two must-haves in the deal, and Luis Campusano, Robert Hassell III, and Ryan Weathers might be other players the Nationals ask about.
The most significant question mark of all is Gore. Do the Padres want to trade him away? Most likely not, especially after the start he has enjoyed during the 2022 season. He has a 2-1 record with a 2.17 ERA through six games. He was recently moved to the bullpen after Blake Snell returned from the IL, but he piggybacked Mike Clevinger and threw three scoreless innings on May 17 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
All in all, the biggest hangup is Gore. Will Preller cave and send away another large package of prospects to acquire Soto? Who knows, but Olney mentioning the Padres as an option for the Nationals outfielder is undoubtedly an interesting talking point with the trade deadline still a couple of months away.