The Washington Nationals don’t have to trade Juan Soto.
They are telling teams that they will only move the 23-year-old outfielder – who has 2 ½ years left before becoming a free agent – if it makes sense for them now, and the future.
The Nationals are not only asking for top prospects, but major-league talent, too.
You can acquire all of the top 100 prospects you want, but some simply don’t pan out. You want proven players, too, although the Nationals would prefer they’re young enough where they don’t qualify for salary arbitration rights yet.
Oh, and if you don’t mind, can you take starter Patrick Corbin’s contract off the Nats’ hands, too? He has $70 million left in his six-year, $140 million deal.
The Nationals have expressed all of that to teams, and still, seven teams – including three from the NL West – have jumped to the forefront and informed them of their strong desire to acquire Soto.
“Whoever receives Juan is going to get the immediate benefit of a player who is historically great,’’ said Scott Boras, Soto’s agent, “and in his prime.’’
And there’s not a soul who will disagree.
Here are the current seven teams who have actively opened trade talks with the Nats, according to league executives.
RIFT? Nationals refused to charter Soto a flight to Home Run Derby, so he flew commercial
WHAT’S NEXT: Soto rejects $440 million offer from the Nationals, future is the talk of MLB All-Star Game
It has been 21 years since they made the playoffs, the longest active drought by any major sports team in North America. They entered the All-Star break having won 14 consecutive games, and 22 of their last 25 games. They play a three-game series this weekend against the Astros in which they have sold out every game. They say their top priority is pitching, but Soto can cover up a whole lot of pitching flaws.
“We are tempting fate if we don’t provide help,’’ GM Jerry Dipoto told Seattle reporters. “You will pay premium prices, that’s part of it. When you are in the position we are in, you have to consider it.’’
Can you imagine a core of Julio Rodriguez, Ty France and Soto?
The Mariners may prove to be the most aggressive of the suitors.
San Diego Padres
Come on, you know GM A.J. Preller is salivating at the idea of adding Soto. Sure, they already have two $300 million players on the books with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. They still want to re-sign ace Joe Musgrove. But no one says they have to sign Soto, only to go to arbitration with him for the next two years, costing a cool $60 million.
They likely would have to give up young pitcher MacKenzie Gore and prized prospects Robert Hassell III and infielder C.J. Abrams, but when you have a chance to win your first World Series title in franchise history, you don’t worry about prospects.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants lost their star power when Buster Posey retired after last season, and really, since Barry Bonds departed after the 2007 season. They tried to trade for Giancarlo Stanton, but he vetoed it. They offered $310 million to Bryce Harper, who instead went to Philadelphia. They could wait for Aaron Judge, who’s from Northern California, but they have to compete with the Yankees for his services.
Why not overpower the Nats with a prospect package starting with Marco Luciano and Luis Matos, and keep on adding until the Nats say yes?
The Giants realize if they don’t get him, they could be facing him a whole lot of times if he lands with the Dodgers or Padres.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers can certainly meet the Nats’ demands for top prospects with their deep and talented system, without even blinking.
And, oh, do they love their stars. They traded for MVP right fielder Mookie Betts. They traded for All-Star shortstop Trea Turner. They traded for Cy Young pitcher Max Scherzer. They signed All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman. So why not Soto?
It may take a package starting with infielder Gavin Lux and prized pitching prospects Bobby Miller and Ryan Pepiot, but when you got a chance to add Soto, knowing you can draft and develop players better than anyone, prospects shouldn’t stand in their way.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals’ reputation is that they hang onto their prospects as if they’re automatic future All-Stars. Well, if you take a look back, it certainly didn’t stop them from trading Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen for a one-year rental of Marcell Ozuna.
Soto is a whole lot better than Ozuna, and you get him for 2 ½ years.
Can you imagine an outfielder mix of Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Soto?
You toss him in with All-Star infielders Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, and you have an automatic ticket to the NL Central title and a dangerous threat to win the pennant.
New York Yankees
They may have the best record in baseball, but guess who bullies them every time they play? Yep, those feisty Houston Astros. The Astros went 5-2 against the Yankees this season, and it could have easily have been 7-0. The Yankees hit just .151 in the seven games, their lowest single-season batting average against a single opponent in baseball history. Yes, they could certainly use Soto, which would also give them insurance in case Aaron Judge parts as a free agent after the season.
New York Mets
If the Nationals want to dump Corbin, and anyone else to reduce the number of prospects to acquire Soto, the Mets are all in. Steve Cohen, the richest owner in baseball worth $15 billion, knows a bargain when he sees it. He promised the Mets’ fans a World Series title in five years. This is Year 2 of his ownership regime. They’ll definitely hang around until the finish line.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale