On the morning of July 16th, the baseball world exploded. Word broke that baseball wunderkind Juan Soto had rejected a colossal 15-year, $440 million deal with the Washington Nationals. In a swift response, the Nationals placed Soto on the trading block.
Generally speaking, only contenders make huge deadline splashes like the trade for Soto would be. However, Soto is a generational talent of such magnitude that any organization would be stupid not to be in the sweepstakes. Soto has received comparisons to stars of all different generations, from Ted Williams to Mike Trout. While these may seem far-fetched, Juan Soto has shown that he possesses talent worthy of comparison to these legends.
The Legend of Juan Soto
Soto’s career OPS of .968 is good for 18th all-time. This places him just a hair below Trout’s career line. Soto ranks above countless others in this category, including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr., just to name a few. Based on Soto’s current 162-game averages, he could finish his career with 680 home runs (assuming he plays 20 healthy seasons) and 2,080 RBI. The former would be suitable for 6th all-time, and the latter for 5th.
Through 555 career games, Soto has posted 21 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). This averages down to 6.12 WAR per full season. This is one of the highest marks of all time, falling just shy of Alex Rodriguez (6.84 WAR/162) and far surpassing Hall-of-Famers such as Derek Jeter (4.2). A season of 6 or more WAR is judged to put a player in MVP contention. To post a career average performance, even with an MVP candidate, is the stuff of myth.
My point in stating this is that Juan Soto is not just any All-Star trade candidate. If he maintains his current performance, he is a legitimate future Hall-of-Famer and baseball legend. Therefore, acquiring Soto should immediately become the goal of every franchise, no matter the cost, right? Well, it’s more complicated than you may think.
Does Soto fit with the Yankees?
The easy answer is yes, Soto fits with the New York Yankees. As the best team in baseball, the Yankees can afford to coast a little bit. They would be perfectly fine if they were to falter a bit heading into the end of the season. They really don’t even need to trade for Soto. However, it’s just too tempting not to. With one of the best players of this generation on the hook, the Yankees should look to strike while the iron is hot and bring in Juan Soto.
This trade begins to make even more sense when you consider that Soto plays left field, the same position that Joey Gallo has been playing for the Yankees this season. Gallo has openly been one of the worst players in baseball since the Yankees acquired him at the deadline last season, and especially so this year. He ranks in the first percentile in Strikeout percentage, expected batting average, and whiff percentage. While he does walk a lot, his horrid performance at the plate leaves him with an OPS of only .630. In short, replacing Gallo with Soto would be a no-brainer for the Yankees.
However, this is a more complicated issue than it appears from the surface. Remember, Soto, rejected a contract extension for $440 million. To lock him up for the long term, a contract would have to be significantly more. It is projected that his next deal will be more in the range of $500 million, if not more. Although the Yankees probably have the money to extend Juan Soto, this is where things get tricky. Yankees franchise star Aaron Judge hits free agency this offseason. It is presently unclear whether he is even interested in re-signing with the team. For the Yankees to bring Judge back for the long term, he would have to receive a huge deal, probably above market expectation due to his reluctance.
Judge has been an elite player in his own right, with an average of 7 WAR per full season. For the Yankees to acquire and extend Soto and retain Judge would be nearly impossible. This would probably take upwards of $500 million per player for a total of over a billion dollars. In addition, the Yankees would have to fork over at least three of their top prospects. They would be essentially leveraging their entire farm system and financially handcuffing themselves for the next decade or so. Soto would provide a major boost to the Yankees, sure. But the trade may not make sense or even be necessary. With the success they’ve enjoyed thus far in 2022, the Yankees might be able to get away with letting Soto slip and still walk away with a World Series title.
The Verdict: No
Does Soto fit with the Mets?
While the New York Mets have certainly enjoyed their own success thus far this season, they are nowhere near the Yankees. Their roster flaws are more clear, and they have more holes in need of addressing. For one, the Mets are likely missing a power bat. In a previous article, I indicated that Trey Mancini may be an appropriate trade target capable of filling this role.
As far as power bats go, not many are as good or consistent as Soto is. For this reason alone, it would make sense for the Mets to pursue him. On top of this, Soto brings far more to the table. He has remained healthy, and he has great plate discipline. To add, his youth will keep him in his prime for likely the entire duration of a potential contract. Therefore, it makes sense for the Mets to consider pursuing him.
Similar to the Yankees, the case for Soto with the Mets is not as simple as it may seem. There are plenty of talented stars on the Mets roster. Many of these stars will soon be in need of a major contract. This includes two-time Cy Young winner and resident pitching god Jacob DeGrom, as well as home run derby phenom Pete Alonso. While it may not be incredibly difficult to lock up Alonso, DeGrom may not be so easy. His extension will likely cost more than any pitcher that has come before. In addition, MLB insider Buster Olney speculated at the beginning of the month that DeGrom may even seek to walk away from the Mets this winter.
“There is a perception in some corners of the industry that if Jacob deGrom follows through with what he said in the spring and opts out of his Mets’ contract, the Braves will be the favorites to land him.”
As far as money goes, it may be difficult for the Mets to justify to themselves that they should try to bring Soto to Queens. Will he be perhaps the best hitter the Mets have ever had? Sure he would. But in order to make this trade happen, the Mets would not only have to trade some of their top prospects, including MLB’s number 2 prospect Francisco Álvarez but would likely have to acquire the contracts of pitchers Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin. These contracts are nothing short of deadweight and, in Strasburg’s case, could cost the Mets upwards of an additional $100 million.
It is also worth considering that trading for Soto may not even be necessary for the Mets. While they could use the hitting boost, they may be able to find this elsewhere for significantly less. It has been rumored that the Mets are interested in Pittsburgh’s Daniel Vogelbach. While he is obviously not as good as Juan Soto, one player may not be what it takes to clean up the Mets’ roster. To win a title, a balanced team may be necessary.
In the words of Twitter user Colin @duckisgod, “Mets fans watched the Braves run away with the World Series thanks to the additions of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, and Jorge Soler… and yet they are crying because we are interested in Daniel Vogelbach.”
An incredibly strong point is made here. The Braves built their championship team up from the ground in the course of a season by executing several tactful deadline moves. Instead of making a splash at the deadline, the Mets may be more successful by taking a quieter route and rounding out their team more reasonably.
The Verdict: No
The Deadline Approaches
You’re probably disappointed to have read this entire article only for me to say that neither the Mets nor Yankees should move to acquire Soto. I just want to clarify that I am not a Soto hater, nor am I adamantly opposed to either team making this move. As a Mets fan, I would be ecstatic to see Juan Soto in Queens for the remainder of his career. However, my point is that these trades may not be essential to the success of either franchise and that I believe both teams can succeed in both the short and long term without moving for Soto.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @ryan_ragan_