The Los Angeles Dodgers are sure to be busy looking to upgrade their roster prior to the MLB trade deadline, and while their focus will likely be on pitchers, they may shift their attention to adding another superstar to their lineup amidst Juan Soto trade rumors.
The Washington Nationals are reportedly open to trading Soto after he rejected their 15-year, $440 million contract extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The addition of a superstar player who has yet to enter his prime and is often compared to Hall of Famer Ted Williams to the trade block has the ability to change the market completely. Rather than talented pitchers such as Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds, and Frankie Montas of the Oakland Athletics being the top targets for contenders, Soto is now the top prize.
The precedent for trading a player of Soto’s caliber with two and a half years of team control left and at only 23 years old is non-existent, and the Nationals are sure to ask the world for him.
While it still feels unlikely they move him, the longer they wait, the more his value will drop, and they aren’t winning any time soon.
If he is traded, the return to the Nationals would likely be the biggest in baseball history, which eliminates more than half the league as most teams lack the assets necessary to acquire one of the game’s bright, young stars.
The Dodgers are one of the few teams who could pull off a deal without sacrificing their ability to win in the future and pay Soto when he is due to become a free agent after the 2024 season. However, even if they are willing to trade multiple top prospects and some players on the roster, they still may fall short of the Nationals’ asking price.
There are two realistic pathways for the Dodgers to trade for Soto. Neither will be easy to agree to, but for a once-in-a-generation player, the Dodgers just might need to do whatever it takes.
Pathway One: Trade the farm for Juan Soto
The first and most straightforward way to acquire Soto is to send a haul of about seven or so talented players. Some names who will be brought up in this will be all of their top prospects, including Diego Cartaya, Bobby Miller, Miguel Vargas, Michael Busch, Ryan Pepiot, and Andy Pages.
High-upside but lower-ranked Minor Leaguers such as Gavin Stone and Landon Knack would also be intriguing to the Nationals.
The Dodgers would also likely need to include players from their 40-man roster, such as one of Gavin Lux or Dustin May, and some combination of Edwin Ríos, Jacob Amaya, James Outman and Eddys Leonard.
According to Baseball Trade Values, which is a system similar but not perfectly equal to the formulas MLB team use to trade, a package of Lux, Cartaya, Busch, Pages, Pepiot and Stone would be roughly equal to the value of Soto.
While the Dodgers could pull that off and probably still be overall happy with the state of their farm system, it’s hard to see the Nationals not demanding Miller and possibly Vargas in the trade, or potentially even May.
A potential Dodgers trade package for Soto that may be more intriguing to the Nationals would be Lux, Cartaya, Miller or May, Busch or Vargas, Pages, Pepiot and some other, lower-ranked players added in, such as Amaya, Outman, and Michael Grove.
This package would be a slight overpay for the Dodgers, but that’s likely the return the Nationals would be looking at, if not more.
Pathway Two: Eat a bad contract
The other way the Dodgers could get a trade done would be by eating one of the Nationals’ bad contracts in Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin. Both are among the worst contracts in baseball, but this is essentially what the Dodgers did when trading for Mookie Betts when they took on half of David Price’s contract.
Strasburg has arguably the worst contract in baseball after signing a seven-year, $245 million deal prior to the 2020 season. He has pitched a total of 31.1 innings with a 6.89 ERA since signing the contract, which has an average annual value of $35 million through 2026.
The Dodgers would surely ask the Nationals to eat some of the remaining salary, but getting any relief from that deal would be beneficial to Washington.
Corbin’s contract seems like the more reasonable one to take on even though he does offer less upside than Strasburg. The left-hander has two years left on his deal after this season with an average annual value of just above $23 million. However, he is set to make $35 million in the final year.
If the Dodgers were to take Corbin’s contract, a trade for Soto could look something like Cartaya, Lux, Pages, Busch, Pepiot, Amaya and Grove for the pair of Nationals’ players and some cash. This could essentially save the Dodgers from trading two extra prospects.
If L.A. decides to take on Strasburg’s deal, then a package involving three to four of the prospects would make sense. Sending something along the lines of Cartaya, Pages, Busch and Pepiot would likely be what the Dodgers are looking at, but it could still fall short of what the Nationals could and should ask for.
Soto trade possibilities recap
Making a trade for a player like Soto will be a challenge for every team involved. He’s arguably the game’s best hitter at only 23 years old with more than two years of control.
With no precedent for a deal like that, it’s incredibly challenging to come up with something that would provide fair value to the Nationals and also be a deal another team would agree to.
While the packages above are certainly substantial, they also may all be short of being enough, which makes him a nearly untradeable player unless a team is willing to be a bit crazy or the Nationals are willing to take a little less than his value just to make it work so they don’t lose him later for far less. Both scenarios seem unlikely.
A Soto trade seems more probable to happen in the offseason when it’s easier for teams to move players off their Major League roster. But until a deal is completed, the Dodgers should be involved and doing whatever they can to get Soto to L.A.
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