Given that the Cubs are likely going to begin another selloff in a day, or two, or a week, this might sound like an absurd premise, the idea that they might trade for Nationals star Juan Soto.
Soto recently rejected a 14-year, $440 million offer from the Nationals, which would have been the largest total dollar deal in MLB history. From an AAV point of view, though:
The Nationals’ offer exceeded in total dollars the 12-year, $426.5 million contract Mike Trout signed with the Angels in March 2019. Soto would have received an average salary of $29.33 million, the 20th-highest in baseball history, with the deal extending from his Ages 24 to 38 seasons, effectively making him a National for the rest of his career.
Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, however, generally prefers his clients to establish their values on the market. Soto is on track to become a free agent entering his Age 26 season, and possibly could seek a deal of more than $500 million. Boras was not immediately available for comment.
And so, Soto will soon be on the trade market, possibly before the deadline this year, although he is not eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season.
If the Cubs wanted to establish themselves as a contender for 2023 and beyond, Soto would be a player to build around. He’s a bit below his previous level of play this year, batting .250/.405/.497 with 20 home runs in 91 games, but that’s still far better than any Cubs hitter this year and his overall numbers, at age 23, put him on a potential Hall of Fame track.
The Cubs should be in the market for players like this. So far, they’ve shown no indication that they’d be interested in such an acquisition and what I’m about to do here is an exercise. It’s not something that is likely to happen in the real world.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that suddenly Jed Hoyer & Co. got the green light from Tom Ricketts to expand the budget for 2023 and beyond so they could take on a player like Soto. Given the deal he just rejected, the Cubs would have to pay more than that, and you likely wouldn’t trade for a player in Soto’s situation unless you were pretty sure you could do that.
If the Cubs did want to do that, what would they have to give the Nationals in return?
Soto is making $17.1 million this year and is arb-eligible for the first time in 2023. So even if a long-term extension isn’t immediately in the cards, you’re looking at probably $25 million or more for 2023. The Nats are also probably going to ask any team taking Soto to also take on the remains of the six-year, $140 million deal Patrick Corbin signed with the team before 2019. Corbin is 32 and has been terrible this year. There’s about $70 million or so left on that contract, which runs through 2024.
This is gonna be expensive for Tom Ricketts, if he agreed to do it, but to acquire a generational talent like Soto, it would be worth it.
What would the Nationals want in return?
First, to offset at least some of the money the Cubs would be taking on, I’d offer Ian Happ, who is a good MLB player making about 60 percent of what Soto’s getting this year. Happ turns 28 next month and has another year of team control. The Nats would be getting at least one player who could go immediately into their lineup.
Obviously that’s not nearly enough. The Nats would want prospects, several of them, and good ones, some of whom would need to be close to MLB-ready. They’d have to come from close to the top of the Cubs prospect list, or young players already in MLB.
So how about adding these three players: Brennen Davis, Caleb Kilian and Nelson Velázquez. Yes, that’s pretty much the entire top of the Cubs prospect list, but to get someone like Soto, it’d almost be necessary.
The Nats might ask for Christopher Morel but I’d balk at that, as I think Morel has a chance to be a star in this league.
Would that do it? Happ, Davis, Kilian and Velázquez for Soto and Corbin? Or is this whole idea crazy?
Ian Happ, Brennen Davis, Caleb Kilian and Nelson Velázquez for Juan Soto and Patrick Corbin...
This poll is closed
Way too much, are you crazy?
Not enough, the Nats would want more MLB players
Tom Ricketts won’t spend the money anyway, so the question is moot
Something else (leave in comments)