John Soto‘s presence in the trading market has in many ways held back activity in other areas. Teams like the Cardinals and Padres, generally seen as two of Soto’s top contenders, are also involved in the pitching launch market. But both are certainly wary of dealing with prospects to acquire a starter (eg Oakland’s Frankie Montas) if those same players could eventually be used to pry Soto out of Washington.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan takes a comprehensive look at the blockade Soto has created, writing that the Yankees are a “long shot” at best to make a game for Soto before the deadline and suggesting that the Rangers are not a prominent bidder for now. That ties in with the recent coverage of Jon Heyman of the New York Post, who wrote last night that there was “no traction” between the Yankees and Nationals regarding Soto, even though the Yankees only reached out last night. Heyman adds that the Nationals are not as high on top prospect Anthony Volpe like the Yankees and many other clubs are, which is a complicating factor in the negotiations.
The Padres and Cardinals are the most suggested matches for Soto, and for good reason, as both are win-now clubs with deep farm systems that can provide the mix of top prospects and controllable major leaguers the Nationals seek. Passan, however, suggests that the Dodgers are “lurking,” and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal similarly wrote this morning that the Dodgers have maintained talks with the Nats and should not be ruled out as a potential landing spot. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale goes one step further, tweet that it’s actually the Dodgers – not the Cardinals or Padres – who have been making the most aggressive offers for Soto lately.
The Mariners, another regularly speculated for Soto, doesn’t seem to be able to land him at this point. President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto tells Jim Bowden of The Athletic that while checking in with Soto, he was under the impression that there was no realistic path to acquiring him (Twitter link). Presumably that was prior to the takeover of Seattle on Friday louis castle — what cost the Mariners their two best prospects.
The Mets have also been speculatively listed as trading partners for the Nats. That’s largely due to the team’s massive payroll and aggressive past year under new owner Steve Cohen. However, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman writes that the Mets believed “relatively fast in the process” that there would be such a large market for Soto that Washington would not have to consider trading him for a divisional rival. That certainly seems to be the case, but if the Nats covet the Mets’ best prospects, there’s at least a slim chance of something coming together; both Sherman and Andy Martino of SNY report that the Mets would only move their very best prospects if it acquired Soto or (an even longer shot) Shohei Ohtani. Both reports suggest catcher Francis Alvarez is off limits unless it’s for one of Soto or Ohtani. Sherman adds third baseman Brett Baty on that list, and Martino proposes third baseman Mark Winds is viewed in the same way.
Regardless of whether Soto specifically changes hands, the market will erupt sometime between now and tomorrow’s 6:00 PM ET deadline. The ticking clock will eventually drive teams into activity, and given the lack of movement thus far, we could have one of the most active and chaotic periods of 24 to 30 hours of deadlines we’ve ever seen.