First Pitch: 3 teams that benefit from Nationals not trading Juan Soto

Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals

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Yankees trade target, Juan Soto

May 16, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto (22) runs to the dugout after the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo went on the record, stating he doesn’t plan on trading Juan Soto before the deadline. 

Soto’s contract runs through 2024 if you count the arbitration-eligible seasons. With that much control left, the Nats don’t have any plans to trade him right now. The key words in that sentence are the last two, as Soto will be a popular trade candidate whenever Washington decides they’re open for business.

Yet, dealing away their franchise cornerstone in the midst of one bad season doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yes, Scott Boras is looking for an unprecedented contract extension to keep Soto in Washington — $350 million will not be enough, even in the midst of a down year. But don’t press the panic button just yet.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rizzo appeared on ‘The Sports Junkies’ podcast and made it crystal clear that the franchise sees Soto as a building block, not a potential trade chip.

Who benefits the most from the Nationals keeping Juan Soto?

First up is Washington itself.

Keeping Soto around for the long haul if obviously the preferred option. He’s one of the best players in baseball, and on a winning team would be arguably the best player in the game.

Yet, the Nats haven’t been much of a force in the National League since they won the World Series a few seasons ago. They’ve lost the likes of Trea Turner and Max Scherzer, voluntarily I might add, and Soto would be the next order of business if they simply intended to tear it all down.

But it’s not that simple. Washington’s plan is to keep Soto and add talented players around him. For that to happen, he has to sign long-term. Rizzo knows that no prospects they get in return for a player of that caliber will be as talented as Soto. It’s similar to the reason Washington didn’t trade away Bryce Harper in his walk year. There was no point.

Soto is also in a down year. His peak value would be when he’s near All-Star caliber, which doesn’t appear to be the case in 2022. If they are to trade Soto, they’d want a king’s ransom. As much as they’d receive right now, it’s not his peak value, period.

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