Imagine this, for a moment.
A Guardians outfield made up of Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez, and Juan Soto.
Maybe your first question is, “who plays center field?”
But did you notice Juan-freaking-Soto’s name in the mix?
Does it really matter?
It might have become a reality, if not for one small snag: Guardians top prospect Daniel Espino.
Talk is Cheap
According to Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com, the Guardians and Nationals lightly discussed getting Soto to Cleveland.
But talks never really got anywhere:
“The Guardians, like every other team in the big leagues, called the Nationals when slugger Juan Soto turned down a $440 million contract extension and became the No. 1 target on the trade market.
The Nationals liked several of the Guardians’ prospects, according to MLB sources, but the conversation started with right-hander Daniel Espino, the top-rated prospect in Cleveland’s farm system.
The problem was Espino hasn’t pitched since the end of April because of a right knee injury. Espino, who has hit 101 mph, made four starts at Class AA Akron before being shut down. He went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.
That’s pretty much where the conversation about Soto ended.”
A few things to unpack there.
First, the Nationals were interested in what the Guardians were selling.
And it’s not a mystery why: the Guardians have one of the most loaded farm systems in the majors.
Second, apparently, Espino was too-high an ask for the Guardians.
Dude has 4 hits and 3 stolen bases tonight.
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) August 2, 2022
Fair, considering that Espino looks the part of a future Opening Day starter.
And Washington would likely also want Gavin Williams in a deal, another future pitching stud.
That leaves the Guardians with few options to bolster their rotation down the line.
A deal centered around George Valera, Oscar Gonzalez, and Brayan Rocchio isn’t getting anywhere.
Heaven and Earth
But let’s remember, for a moment, who we’re talking about.
As I mentioned above: Juan-freaking-Soto.
This isn’t a deadline rental who’s been scuppering away on the Detroit Tigers.
It’s Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle — a once in a generation talent.
Are Espino and Williams the same?
They might be excellent players; in fact, all signs point in that direction.
But are they all-time greats?
Probably not on the level of Soto.
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) August 1, 2022
When a player like that becomes available you move heaven and earth to get a deal done, especially if the seller is interested in your farm.
And plus, the Guardians likely could have sacrificed one of Williams or Espino without forking over both.
And the Guardians still have Triston McKenzie, a young, controllable pitcher who has played well this season.
If the Guardians wanted to restock with pitchers, they could do so by offloading Shane Bieber or Franmil Reyes, as well.
Reyes might not bring back the quality of an Espino, but he could net something to restock the cupboards.
It’s a moot point now, but the point is, it’s a little disappointing.
If the Nationals had an interest, the Guardians should have kept the phone on the line a little longer.