Amidst all of the fanfare and Guardians coming-out parties, one non-Cleveland story shocked the MLB during the All-Star Break.
Washington Nationals superstar Juan Soto is apparently available.
This after Soto reportedly turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract to stay in Washington.
Then came news that the Nationals refused to fly Soto to the All-Star Game.
Instead, the club tried to heap Soto on the Braves’ All-Star plane, deadheading him like Frank Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can.
The bad blood is real.
Should the Guardians step in?
It’s hard to heap enough praise onto Soto.
He’s a generational talent, sure.
Though only 23, his batting is on pace with names like Mike Trout, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron.
He’s a career .293 batter; .304 if you discount his career-low .250 average this season.
Soto is also a perennial MVP candidate, finishing as the runner-up last season en route to his second Silver Slugging award.
Worried about fit?
Soto could be traded to The Beatles and still carve out a niche as a backup bassist.
All of this to say: players like Soto rarely (if ever) become available.
Trout, Mantle, and Aaron all played (or in Trout’s case, have played) for a combined four teams.
The opportunity to grab a surefire Hall of Famer doesn’t come around often.
For basketball fans, think of it this way: it’s the equivalent of the latest Kevin Durant trade saga.
A once in a generation talent and a once in a generation opportunity.
That’s what we’re talking about here.
Given that slim window mentioned above, the cost for Soto is going to be tremendous.
In fact, Jim Bowden of The Athletic expects Washington to receive the biggest haul in MLB history for Soto.
Fortunately, the Guardians are one of the few teams that can pull off such a trade.
Per Zach Meisal of The Athletic, the Guardians are perhaps unmatched in ability to add prospect talent, precisely what Washington might be in the market for:
“The Guardians boast one of the best systems in baseball, with a league-high eight top-100 prospects, per MLB Pipeline’s latest update. And much of their well-regarded talent is in the upper levels of the minors, so the players have more concrete track records than, say, an intriguing-but-unproven 19-year-old at Low A. Perhaps that would appeal to Washington.”
But a deal only makes sense if there’s enough existing talent to support a player like Soto.
The Guardians likely have enough.
Yankees have reached out to express interest in acquiring Juan Soto. Now it's a matter of the Nationals telling the Yankees (and other teams) what they want for a generational talent. It's early in process. Both sides must determine if there's a match in terms of talent exchange
— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) July 23, 2022
Unless Washington takes every single player under 24 in Cleveland and in the Guardians system, the Guardians will still have a bevy of young, proven talent to surround Soto.
Josh Naylor, Steven Kwan, Andrés Giménez, Amed Rosario, Myles Straw, Oscar Gonzalez — even if half of those names are included in a Soto-package, there are three remaining.
It would be hard to see Daniel Espino, Bo Naylor, Gavin Williams, and George Valera depart.
And let’s be clear, at least two of those four would probably be included.
But we’re talking about Juan Soto, here.
The Guardians are bloated with talented prospects, which is an excellent problem to have.
It also means that not every single one of these players will see full-action in Cleveland, by virtue of limited positions available.
Why not cash in now, on a guy who might never be available again?
Thought parting with fan favorites was the hard part?
The real hang-up is whether the Guardians think Soto will stick around long-term.
Soto’s agent Scott Boras explained a key decision in whether the outfielder sticks around is whether “there’s an owner out there that is all about winning.”
Let me translate for you: by “winning,” Boras means “paying an absurd amount of money.”
Unfortunately, Cleveland hasn’t always shown a readiness to open up the checkbook.
But new management in the form of David Blitzer is on the horizon.
I have to admit that I want to see the Angels acquire Juan Soto because I'm legitimately curious if they can get 20 WAR from Trout/Soto/Ohtani in 2023 and still somehow go 79-83.
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) July 18, 2022
Blitzer has overseen several other professional sports teams, including the NBA’s Philadephia Sixers, who have spent significant time in the luxury tax.
But can Cleveland outflank teams like the Dodgers, Giants, White Sox, and Yankees?
Each one is in a much larger media market, which might appeal more to the young Soto.
The Guardians aren’t a team that usually “goes all in.”
But this is an unprecedented circumstance calling for an unprecedented move.
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