If Juan Soto is on the move, he'll be one of the hottest trade chips in recent baseball history.
The 23-year-old perennial MVP candidate led baseball in on-base percentage last season, has a career OPS nearing 1.000, and has two years of arbitration left after this season. But, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, rival executives think he could be on the move this summer.
While almost every contending team would check in on a player of Soto's status, Olney linked the Blue Jays as a potential club, noting "front-office types" point to the Jays and Pares as potential trade fits.
The Jays "can dream on a left-handed star to complement the right-handed-hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr.," Olney writes. But is that dream realistic?
What's The Soto Fit In Toronto?
Soto is everything the Jays liked about Freddie Freeman but younger and a more natural defensive fit. He’s arguably the best hitter in baseball, would bring a desired lefty bat to Toronto’s lineup, and is already friendly with some of the Jays’ young core.
Soto would significantly improve every lineup in baseball, and the Jays are no different. Financially keeping the core together would become more difficult, though, with Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Soto all hitting free agency (and set for half-billion-dollar paydays) within a year of each other—but Soto is the type of player you make it work for.
Soto Trade Comparisons:
Finding a recent trade comparison for this kind of deal is difficult because Soto would be arguably the best player traded in the last decade or more. And muddying the comparisons more is that players even close to the caliber of Soto rarely get traded with multiple years of control left.
So, the following deals should be considered floors for what a Soto deal would probably take, and we're maybe looking at much more:
The Mookie Betts Trade
In February 2020, the Red Sox traded a dominant outfielder and franchise cornerstone destined for a massive contract (sound familiar?), Mookie Betts, with a year of arbitration left.
Going from the Dodgers to Boston for Betts was Alex Verdugo, LA’s former top prospect who peaked at No. 35 in all of baseball, Jeter Downs (No. 44 on MLB Pipeline at the time), and a borderline top 30 organizational youngster in Connor Wong. The Dodgers also ate half of David Price’s remaining contract ($48 million).
Taking on a significant chunk of money and sending two top 50 prospects allowed Los Angeles to pry Betts from Boston, but the situation was a little more pressing than Soto’s status in Washington. Betts was months away from the open market and “was determined” to reach free agency and get a record $400 million deal, as reported by MLB.com at the time. He later signed a $365 million, 12-year deal with the Dodgers.
The Matt Olson Trade
Like the Betts deal, Atlanta’s trade for Matt Olson sent two blue-chip prospects back to Oakland, plus more. The Braves sent their then-top prospect catcher Shea Langeliers (No. 68 league-wide) and former top 20 MLB prospect Christian Pache. The Athletics also received Atlanta’s 2021 first-round pick, RHP Ryan Cusick, and another young pitcher in Joey Estes.
In terms of timing, the Olson swap is closer to Soto's control years as the now-Braves 1B had two full years of team control left (Soto has two after 2022). However, Olson's pre-trade career OPS of .859 isn't quite at Soto's .972 mark and the value of a first baseman may not be a perfect indicator of what Soto could fetch.
Finding an apt comparison for a Soto swap is difficult—23-year-old MVP candidates aren't dealt often. But from the recent Olson and Betts blockbusters, it's clear the cost is at least two consensus top prospects and something more. The Jays currently have three prospects inside MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, with Gabriel Moreno (No. 7), Orelvis Martinez (No. 35), and Jordan Groshans (No. 77). Left-handed pitcher Ricky Tiedemann is also moving up rankings after a strong start to 2022.
H/T Buster Olney