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What Might A Blue Jays’ Trade For Juan Soto Look Like?

The Washington Nationals are rumoured to be open to the idea of trading Juan Soto.  If the Blue Jays were interested, what might a trade package look like?


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The Washington Nationals are rumoured to have offered Juan Soto a 15-year, $440 million extension this week – which he turned down.  So the Nats are said to be “entertaining trade offers“.  Which begs the question – what would it take for the Jays to have a chance in the Soto Sweepstakes?

 

The Baseball Trade Values site puts Soto’s value at $194 million – a figure higher than many team’s entire farm systems.  But it is unclear whether Washington could actually realize this value in a trade.

 

First, because of Soto’s 2022 performance.  His 2.5 WAR to date is good – 34th best among players – but well off his 2021 and 2020 pace.  And the major projection systems (ZiPS, Steamer) only expect 3 WAR over the remainder of the season, for a full-season total of 5,5-ish.  Still excellent, but not holy-cow-Batman enough to warrant a valuation of almost $200 million.  It is entirely possible that Soto will regain his mojo in 2023 and 2024, but a large part of his value comes from his ability to help a 2022 contender.

 

A second factor is the motivated seller factor.  Remember in 1995 how the Montreal Canadiens traded Patrick Roy for what some describe as pennies on the dollar?  Admittedly, Roy had declared that he would never play another game for the Habs, which placed Montreal in a weak bargaining position, but the return was still below expectations.  Or – more recently – the Brooklyn Nets are said to be underwhelmed by the offers they have received for Kevin Durant, arguably still one of the greatest players in basketball, likely because teams believe that the Nets have no choice but to trade.  Some writers have suggested that the reason the Soto extension offer was made public so quickly is that the Nats are now similarly motivated.

 

A third factor is Soto’s likely price under arbitration.  He is making $17 million in 2022, and is expected to exceed $50 million in aggregate salary under arbitration for 2023 and 2024.  Even if you assume that he will put up 7 fWAR in both of those years (which is likely optimistic), at $8 million per win he would only generate $62 million of excess value, which is a long way from $150m.

 

So play a game of “what if” with me.  Say that the combination of the above factors means that the Nats will only get 75% of the BTV value for Soto – still a hefty $150 million.  And say that Washington would need to get something of star quality back – not just a dozen low-to-middle value prospects.  And further assume that the Jays are not willing to give up players that will leave major holes on the current team – such as a Manoah or Bichette or Guerrero Jr.

 

Consider the following:

Jays get:  Juan Soto, Patrick Corbin

Nats get:  Alejandro Kirk, Santiago Espinal

For my fellow statheads:  using the Baseball Trade Values and assuming $150m for Soto, this would mean that the Jays acquire $95 million of net value (Soto @ $150m, Corbin @ -$55m) and the Nats acquire $92 million (Kirk @ $72m and Santa @ $20m).  So pretty close.

 

Why would the Jays do this deal?

First, they would have to believe that two-and-a-half years of Soto (at $25m+ per year) really is worth such a high trade price.  Personally, I have my doubts.  But there are many who do.

 

Second, they would have to believe that Pete Walker could “fix” Corbin, the way he did Robbie Ray.  Not necessarily to Corbin’s fifth-in Cy-Young level from 2018, but to a solid 4th starter level.  Corbin is owed roughly $70 million over the next 2.5 seasons, which is almost certainly a huge overpay.  But even a good #4 starter does not come cheap – look at the 3/$36m deal the Jays had to give Yusei Kikuchi.  The Jays need another starter, and *if* (big IF) they believe that Corbin can fill that role, he could be an overpay rather than wasted money.  Despite his struggles, Corbin does bring something the Jays need:  innings – his 539 IP from 2019-date is 8th highest in baseball.  So even with a partial fix, he could fill a very real need.

 

Third, the Jays would have to believe that they can live with a Jansen-Moreno-Collins combination at catcher and Cavan Biggio playing second base full-time.  Which would mean that the loss of Kirk and Espinal would hurt, but not leave unfillable holes.

 

And finally, the Jays would need to believe that they can find payroll room for what could be a combined $60 million in 2024 for Soto + Corbin.  Granted, Ryu’s $20 million per year and Chapman’s $12.5 million will be off the books by then, but it will still be a substantial cash burden.

 

Note that I am attributing no value to a potential Soto qualifying offer in 2024 (as I assume that the QO will be gone by then).  I further assume that the Jays will prioritize extending Vladdy and Bo over Soto (at $400 million plus!), so this will not be a Jose Berrios-type situation where much of the value comes from an extension.

 

And I am not looking beyond this trade to the other opportunities it might create – like the possible returns from trading Teoscar or Lourdes.

 

Why would Washington do this deal?

They would acquire two all-stars with a combined 8 years of team control.  And both players fill positions of need.  Keibert Ruiz is a glove-first catcher likely better suited to a #2 role, and Washington’s -1.1 fWAR from the shortstop position so far in 2022 is dead last in the majors.

 

[As an aside – if instead of Santiago the Nats wanted to be able to say that they acquired a “mlb top 100 prospect”, the Jays could replace Santiago’s $20m BTV value with Tiedemann ($23m), or with Orelvis ($12m) or Groshans ($14m) plus some other bits]

 

Plus, if the rumours that the Lerners are “exploring possibilities” to sell the Nats, it is possible that removing a perceived negative contract like Corbin’s could make the team more attractive to a new owner.

 

The bottom line

Regardless of assumptions, one thing is clear:  Soto will NOT come cheap.  If the Blue Jays want him, they will be forced to make sacrifices – both in terms of cash and player/prospect cost.  Is 2.5 years of Soto worth that level of cost?

 

 

*Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Jim Scott

A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.