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There is reportedly some belief within Major League Baseball that the San Diego Padres will make the biggest push to acquire Washington Nationals superstar outfielder Juan Soto via trade.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Padres are viewed as the “most motivated team” on the trade market by rival executives, making them a strong threat to pursue and land Soto.
Olney also noted that there is a growing feeling within MLB that Soto getting dealt before the Aug. 2 trade deadline is a “real possibility” since his value will only decrease as his salary goes up and he gets closer to free agency.
It was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic last week that Soto had rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract offer from the Nationals, marking the third time he had turned down an offer from them.
As a result, the Nationals reportedly opened themselves up to trade offers for Soto, with Rosenthal noting that the organization feels like Soto isn’t likely to ever re-sign with them if he wasn’t willing to accept the $440 million offer.
Soto is perhaps the pre-eminent young hitter in baseball, as the 23-year-old lefty is already a two-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, one-time batting champion and one-time World Series champion.
He played a key role in helping the Nats win their first World Series title in 2019, won a batting title the following year with a .351 average and finished second in the NL MVP voting last season with a .313/.465/.534 slash line, 29 homers and 95 RBI.
Soto’s overall production is down this season, especially in terms of batting average at .250, but he still boasts a .403 on-base percentage and leads the NL in walks with 79, plus he has hit 20 home runs and 43 RBI with 57 runs scored, earning him an All-Star nod.
He would provide a massive boost to any team that acquires him and would perhaps make them a World Series favorite.
The Padres fall into that category, as they are currently a wild-card team in the NL at 53-42. However, their record lags behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves.
San Diego already has among the most potent lineups in the game, but adding Soto alongside Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, Eric Hosmer and Fernando Tatis Jr. (when he returns from injury) would be a nightmare scenario for opposing pitchers.
As noted by Olney, Padres owner Peter Seidler has not been shy about making big trades or signings and doling out huge contracts in recent years.
Machado, Hosmer, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea are just a few of the big names who have been added to the fold, and Soto could join that list.
If he does, there may be no team in baseball capable of matching a middle of the order comprised of Soto, Machado and Tatis.