The Toronto Blue Jays will be buyers at the Aug. 2 trade deadline and there's an enormous fish available if the price is right.
Juan Soto reportedly rejected a 15-year, $440-million contract from the Washington Nationals and the club is now willing to entertain trade offers for the 23-year-old outfielder.
A generational talent like Soto rarely becomes available, so any general manager has to at least do their due diligence and weigh whether or not a deal makes sense for where a franchise currently stands in its competitive cycle. Soto isn't just a rental, he's under contract through the 2024 campaign, meaning he could even be a fit for teams that aren't necessarily eyeing a deep playoff run this year.
Jim Bowden of The Athletic and CBS Sports reported on Tuesday that there is "robust" interest from all market sizes and no current frontrunner. So should the Blue Jays make a legitimate entry in the Soto sweepstakes? Here are the pros and cons.
The case for:
It's no secret the Blue Jays are missing a middle-of-the-order left-handed bat to balance a lineup full of righty sluggers. George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk, Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Matt Chapman all hit right-handed, as do Santiago Espinal and Danny Jansen.
Soto isn't just an impact lefty, he's the best left-handed hitter in baseball and you'd have him under team control for the next three playoff pushes. His profile is the perfect complement to this team. Not only can he hit for power and average but he leads the majors in walks for a second consecutive season. The Blue Jays have the second-lowest walk rate of any team currently in a playoff position, so Soto's patience would give the lineup a different look.
It's hard to quantify how things like team morale impact wins and losses, but the front office making a major splash by acquiring a player of this ilk would undoubtedly send a jolt of excitement through the clubhouse and the fan base. It's easy to imagine Soto fitting in perfectly with the Blue Jays' "Barrio," especially since he has a longstanding friendship with Guerrero Jr. dating back to their days as teenagers in the Dominican Republic. Espinal has already made his pitch, saying Soto would "look better in blue."
The case against:
Adding Soto would certainly make the Blue Jays better, but at what cost? The Nationals' asking price is reportedly four or five top "youngsters," meaning either prospects or players who don't have much MLB service time yet. That's not an unfair request given Soto's combination of youth and game-changing talent.
So what would that type of package look like for the Blue Jays? Toronto would likely lean into more of a prospect-based deal, with some or all of Gabriel Moreno, Orelvis Martinez, Ricky Tiedemann and Jordan Groshans being involved. Washington could even ask for Bichette (under team control through 2025) or Kirk (2026).
Toronto's farm system would be depleted — something this front office reportedly "scolded" former GM Alex Anthopoulos for in 2015 — and leave few bargaining chips for additional trades. The Blue Jays would ideally add another starting pitcher and at least one hard-throwing, high-leverage reliever before the deadline. Would there be enough left in the pipeline to sufficiently address those needs? It should be noted that acquiring Soto would give Toronto an outfield surplus from which to deal from, so perhaps Hernandez or Gurriel Jr. could be flipped to patch up other areas of the roster.
There's also the financial aspect. Soto has two more years of arbitration before he hits free agency, and his annual earnings are only going to increase from the roughly $17 million he's making in 2022. Any talks of a long-term contract extension probably have to reach $500 million, which would reduce the likelihood of retaining Guerrero Jr. and/or Bichette.
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