At this point, it’s the worst-kept secret in baseball that the Washington Nationals are at least taking offers on Juan Soto. In fact, to hear some “insiders” tell it, he’s all but out the door within the week, with the trade deadline fast approaching (it’s on August 2) and the Nats supposedly impatient to resolve the “Soto question” ahead of an expected sale of the team this offseason.
While it’s not a lock that Soto is moved before the deadline, some of the latest reports suggest the Nats have fielded no shortage of interest in their 23-year-old superstar and could actually get more than they have been aiming for. And with two and a half years of team control remaining on Soto’s rookie contract, the Nats have an incredibly valuable trade asset on their hands. Reports suggest the Nats have been asking for up to a team’s six best prospects or packages that include a mix of top prospects and young, controllable major leaguers, although they vary on exactly what the Nats would need to pull the trigger on a deal.
Would a pitching-heavy package that doesn’t add much to the Nats’ anemic positional core move them, if it included big names like George Kirby and Logan Gilbert? Or would a package satisfy if it addressed the Nats’ long-term lineup questions, with the likes of C.J. Abrams and Robert Hassell III, but didn’t include long-term solutions to their rotation questions? Would they take young major leaguers like Steven Kwan and Andrés Giménez in a package that is light on prospects? What about a prospects-only deal from a well-stocked farm system, with no established MLB players?
And what about Patrick Corbin, the Nats’ co-co-ace for the 2019 championship season who has been baseball’s best-paid fifth starter — we’re being generous, here, as he owns a miserable 5.66 ERA on the decade — since then? Some early reports, since news broke earlier this month that the Nats could trade Soto, suggested the Nats were intent on packaging Corbin with Soto, requiring a team that acquires two and a half years of the wunderkind to also take on the remaining two and a half years of one of the worst active contracts in professional sports. But it’s not clear whether that type of deal will come together. If you gauge Jim Bowden’s report from last week as a trial balloon floated by Bowden’s former employers in D.C., the reaction from around baseball may have been negative enough to put the Nats front office off the idea — if it was seriously on the table to begin with.
Rather than assume the case of Schrödinger’s Corbin, in which Corbin is simultaneously alive and dead included and not included in a Soto deal, we will consider scenarios in which Soto is traded by himself and Soto is packaged with the left-hander and his albatross of a contract. To help us out, we will use Baseball Trade Values’ simulator, a handy tool for gauging the comparative value of players.
The best fits for Juan Soto
There are 30 teams in baseball, including the Nationals, that would be vastly better with Juan Soto on them through 2024. But not all of them have the high-end talent that it will take to pry Soto from the Nats. Nor do all of them have the existing, established talent to build a winner around Soto (this is, in brief, the proximate issue for the Nats themselves).
One such team is, of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series that came at the conclusion of a full season played under normal roster rules and not subject to widespread pandemic-related disruptions since 1988, they are perennial contenders thanks to their massive team budget, penchant for canny trades, and crackerjack player development system. It’s easy to picture them again connecting with the Nats on a mega-trade, as they did last year when they rented future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer from the Nats along with a season and a half of star shortstop Trea Turner.
The Dodgers still have one of baseball’s top farm systems, and they do have the pieces for a Soto deal…at least on paper.
This deal would send Soto by himself to the Dodgers in exchange for L.A. second baseman Gavin Lux and four top-100 prospects: infielder Michael Busch, outfielder Andy Pages, right-handed pitcher Bobby Miller, and the catcher Cartaya.
Why might the Nats say no?
By far the Dodgers’ best trade asset is yet another star catcher from a system that has been churning them out for years. The summer after the Nats traded Scherzer and Turner for L.A. top prospect Keibert Ruiz, pitcher Josiah Gray, and two lesser prospects, once again, the highest-ranked prospect in the Dodgers organization is a catcher, Diego Cartaya.
As a supplemental piece, a catcher looks like a decent addition for the Nats. Riley Adams, acquired at the trade deadline last summer, hasn’t really solidified himself as Ruiz’s backup, and in fact, he’s spent the past few weeks in the minors. Tres Barrera has regressed defensively and has never shown much offensively. It would be nice, certainly, to have a more capable backup catcher than the Nats’ present options.
That being said, the Nats made numerous playoff runs with the likes of José Lobatón and Pedro Severino backing up their primary catcher. Sure, they didn’t win it all until they finally paired up two frontline-caliber catchers in Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, but the point stands that having two high-quality catchers is a luxury for a major league team — especially one that is currently rebuilding.
Beyond that: Lux, 25 in November, is under team control through the 2026 season. That’s two years beyond the expiry of Soto’s rookie contract, but the Nats would likely prefer to have even more team control, and perhaps a younger player than Lux. Pages has homered sixteen times for Double-A Tulsa at age 21 this year, but he’s a power-over-hit prospect whom the Nats may perceive as overly risky.
Another obvious connection on a potential Soto swap is the St. Louis Cardinals. Like the Dodgers, the Cardinals seem to be in the playoff mix every year. Their player development is excellent, they make smart and sometimes very aggressive trades for top-flight talent, and they are steady spenders. Also like the Dodgers, the Cardinals dealt with the Nats last summer, acquiring veteran starter Jon Lester in exchange for former top prospect Lane Thomas.
While the Cardinals’ farm isn’t as highly regarded as the Dodgers’, they have a mix of near-MLB talent and young major leaguers whom the Nats could find extremely appealing.
Here, the Nats would add Cardinals infielder Nolan Gorman, infield prospect Jordan Walker, shortstop prospect Masyn Winn, and pitching prospects Gordon Graceffo and Tink Hence, while sending Soto alone to St. Louis.
Why might the Nats say no?
On paper, this deal has a lot going for it. Walker is a consensus top-ten prospect who would fill a position of need for Washington, Gorman is a former top prospect in his rookie season, and Winn was linked to the Nats before the 2020 draft (the Nats ultimately selected Cade Cavalli before Winn fell to St. Louis in the second round).
What is missing: genuine, top-shelf pitching talent. Both Graceffo and Hence fall outside the top 100, as ranked by MLB.com. While the arrow seems to be pointing upward for both, Graceffo is still establishing himself at Double-A and is likely a year or more from the majors, and Hence is a teenager who has yet to pitch above Low-A. The Nats could instead ask for Matthew Liberatore, who would fit the bill, but Bowden reported earlier this month that for whatever reason, the Nats front office doesn’t think much of the left-hander. St. Louis might also balk at giving up two pieces from their major league roster in Liberatore and Gorman.
Either team might also ask to include Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson instead of Gorman in a swap. But Carlson is only controllable through 2026, and while he’s in his third major league season, he’s still waiting on a long-anticipated offensive breakout. He could be viewed as a change-of-scenery candidate at this point, but the Nats may prefer the upside and longer control they would be getting with Gorman.
The Dodgers are baseball’s quintessential big-market team. The Cardinals are one of the game’s traditional powerhouses. Neither fact is true of the San Diego Padres, who occupy one of MLB’s smallest markets and haven’t made it to the World Series since 1998. But what the Padres do have is, like the Cardinals, an attractive blend of quality prospects and young major leaguers.
The Padres aren’t quite a perfect match, for reasons we will get to below. But in theory, they have what it would take to acquire Soto before the deadline.
In this swap, the Nats would get Padres shortstop C.J. Abrams and starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore, as well as four prospects: outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood, shortstop Jackson Merrill, and catcher Luis Campusano. The Padres would get Soto and that’s all.
Why might the Nats say no?
This is the first deal here with a sizable caveat: The Baseball Trade Values simulator refused to “validate” it, on the basis that the Padres need to include a high-value player. Apparently, Abrams with some lesser pieces doesn’t cut it.
Of course, the word of the website is not gospel. In the real word, the Padres front office would have to swallow hard before coughing up this much young talent in a single trade deal. They would surely dispute the notion that they aren’t including enough value from their side.
But one thing that really does hurt the Padres in the Soto derby is that they just placed Gore, their former top pitching prospect, on the injured list with left elbow inflammation. His long-term prognosis is unclear; his value is hard to gauge without complete medicals, on which the Nats would of course insist before agreeing to any exchange. And in this proposed swap, Gore is the only pitcher who would be headed back to the Nats for Soto.
The Padres do have some other pieces of potential interest, but two of the supplemental pieces in this deal carry some question marks. Merrill has put up eye-popping numbers this year, but he’s still in complex ball. Campusano is 24 next month and has three partial seasons in MLB (he’s controllable through 2027) but has yet to solidify himself on the roster. He’s also a catcher who would presumably slot in behind Ruiz as his backup, rather than playing an everyday role on his new team.
The Seattle Mariners are basically the American League version of the Padres. They’re a small-market team that doesn’t receive much respect or attention from the national baseball media, and they have been essentially irrelevant for about 20 years, having last made the playoffs in 2001.
The Mariners don’t have a top-tier farm system at midseason, but they certainly did coming into the season. Some of their best preseason prospects are now more or less established as major leaguers. One of them, Julio Rodríguez, has seen his star rise so high as to become essentially untouchable in any deal. But even allowing that J-Rod won’t be part of any midseason swap, the Mariners could still make a Soto trade happen, at least in theory.
This exchange sees young Mariners starting pitchers Logan Gilbert and George Kirby head to D.C., along with shortstop prospects Noelvi Marté and Edwin Arroyo and another young pitcher, prospect Emerson Hancock. Seattle would get Soto.
Why might the Nats say no?
This deal is very pitching-heavy, to the point where the Mariners might struggle to envision their rotation of the future even as the Nats would have visions of young aces dancing in their heads like sugarplums. What it doesn’t do is offer the Nats any near-term lineup help at the major league level.
There are some ways to even this out a little. The Nats could get post-prospect Jarred Kelenic back from Seattle, perhaps instead of Hancock, but the trade simulator then sees a modest degree of excess value being given up by the Mariners. Beyond the number-crunching, the Mariners might protest giving up three MLB-ready players, even though they’re probably not quite in a position to contend this season. And the Nats might not share the website’s high opinion of Kelenic, who just turned 23 and is controllable through 2027. The young outfielder was sent back to Triple-A Tacoma earlier this season after whiffing in 37.5% of his Mariners plate appearances.
The Nats could also back off asking for both Gilbert and Kirby, substituting some mix of Kelenic and lesser prospects for one of them. The simulator again balks at leaving Gilbert out of the deal, saying the Mariners need to add a more valuable piece to their side of the trade. In reality, of course, it’s possible to imagine both sides agreeing on such an exchange. But it does suggest how the Nats might react to the Mariners trying to exclude both Rodríguez and Gilbert, their young stars, from such a deal.
The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t been universally mentioned as suitors for Soto, but a few pundits, including Bowden, have pushed them as a potential landing spot. The Jays are fringe contenders in the American League, and while they don’t have a super-strong farm system, they do have a youth movement going on their major league roster. They also happen to have the largest media market in MLB, with all of Canada considered to be Blue Jays territory, although their spending in recent years hasn’t quite matched their status.
The accounting to make a Jays trade for Soto work gets a little tricky, because it leans so heavily on Toronto’s major league roster. It is at least theoretically workable, though, as the trade simulator confirms.
The Nats would pocket young Toronto ace Alek Manoah, former top prospect Nate Pearson, pitching prospect Ricky Tiedemann, and infield prospects Jordan Groshans and Orelvis Martínez while sending Soto to the Great White North in this deal.
Why might the Nats say no?
Even though the trade value of the respective returns here actually favors the Nats, it’s likelier that the Blue Jays would balk here — namely at including Manoah, the West Virginia product who has put up eye-popping numbers in his sophomore season. The 24-year-old is controllable through 2027 and looks, for all the world, like a franchise cornerstone for the Blue Jays for years to come.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, it’s hard to make a deal work without Manoah, Baseball Trade Values suggests. He’s by far Toronto’s most valuable trade asset. Second on the list is Bo Bichette Jr., who is only controllable through 2025 and is having a down season. A distant third is Gabriel Moreno, a catcher. Fourth is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is 1) hurt and 2) also a free agent after 2025. Fifth is Alejandro Kirk, another catcher.
The Nats could bite the bullet and agree to a less prestigious deal centered on Moreno or Kirk, perhaps with the idea in Kirk’s case that he could be the team’s long-term DH. Even still, Kirk is only controlled through 2026. As for Moreno, even though he is a top-five prospect according to MLB.com, he somehow only has one home run this season between the major leagues and Triple-A. It’s hard to see either enticing the Nats as a centerpiece if Toronto refuses to discuss Manoah.
If Manoah is in the deal, it’s essentially a Soto-for-Manoah swap with a few lesser pieces sprinkled in. Martínez is a top-50 prospect and actually the highest-ranked of the rest, although Baseball Trade Values doesn’t think that much of him. Tiedemann is having a nice season, but he hasn’t yet reached the high minors. Groshans is a back-end top-100 prospect, but he’s having a bad year and probably falls in the midseason re-ranking that MLB.com does. Pearson isn’t a prospect anymore and has been bitten hard by the injury bug since a promising 2020 debut. The Nats may feel like even if the Jays are willing to give up Manoah — still a very big ask — they would be putting all of their eggs in one basket, and that might be too great a risk for a trade the Nats hope will overhaul their organization in one fell swoop.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have yet to be explicitly connected to the Soto derby. They’re battling to stay out of last place in the NL West, and it’s unclear whether they hope to contend next year. But the D-Backs haven’t been afraid to make splashy moves to try to shake things up in a perennially difficult division, and they have a deep reservoir of young, up-the-middle talent.
Could Arizona be a surprise player for Soto? If they have a mind to deal, they certainly have the chips to interest the Nats.
Why might the Nats say no?
Let’s preface this by saying the D-Backs are incredibly deep with quality young outfielders and shortstops. Baseball Trade Values pins similar valuations on Thomas, Carroll, and 2021 first-rounder Jordan Lawlar, a middle infielder. Outfielder Daulton Varsho rates even higher in trade value, although at age 26 and only controllable through 2026, he would seem to hold less appeal for Washington. All the same, there are several permutations of this deal that would match up on paper.
Where the D-Backs are less strong, and why they aren’t universally tabbed as a top contender for the mid-’20s, is in pitching. Their top three pitching prospects are Pfaadt, Nelson, and left-hander Blake Walston. Walston and Pfaadt rank toward the back end of the top 100, with Nelson falling just outside it. But Walston has seriously struggled in 2022, leading Baseball Trade Values to weight him as a significantly lesser trade piece, and Pfaadt and Nelson have scuffled as well. It’s likely none will crack the top 100 when MLB.com does its midseason re-ranking.
Arizona also has a fairly top-heavy system, which is why this is a smaller package than many of the others in terms of the number of players headed back to Washington. Like the Blue Jays, much of the D-Backs’ potential trade value is tied up in a few players, with others likely lacking the cachet to strongly appeal to the Nats. If the Nats are looking to turn Soto into two or three future stars, the D-Backs could be a good match (certainly more so than some others in the rumor mill). If they are looking to turn Soto into the nucleus of their lineup and rotation of the future, that’s a taller task.
Another team that hasn’t been mentioned much as a trade partner for the Nats and Soto, the Cleveland Guardians have a very good farm system and some young talent on the roster. They are firmly in the playoff hunt and well-positioned to be relevant in the AL Central for years to come. What they don’t have is much of a reputation for big spending. It was surprising enough when they gave José Ramírez a big extension deal earlier this year. Adding Soto to the mix would certainly qualify as a bombshell in the American League.
If they’re willing to get risky, the Guardians could hypothetically pair Soto and Ramírez for one of MLB’s best one-two punches, while sending back enough value to Washington to make a trade happen.
Why might the Nats say no?
As with other deep systems, there are other combinations that could work. Baseball Trade Values likes Naylor a lot more than his ranking on MLB.com would suggest (fifteenth on the Guardians’ organizational list), which is understandable, given that he’s regarded as a good defensive catcher who is also having an absolutely massive season at the plate in the high minors. Still, the Nats might prefer someone like young Double-A infielder Brayan Rocchio or Triple-A southpaw Logan Allen.
The Guardians have a lot of good prospects. Espino ranks in the top ten, although he hasn’t pitched since April due to knee and shoulder issues and will likely slide in the midseason re-ranking. Valera is also in the top 50 on MLB.com. Things drop off a bit after that, with several prospects hovering around the back end or off the top 100. It’s still a very good system, but as Baseball Trade Values suggests, the true blue-chip talent might not be enough for the Nats to consider them a top-tier trade partner.
But the real drawback for Cleveland is that the major league talent it could offer is limited. Kwan, 25 in September, is having a nice rookie season, and while it would be tough for the Guards to give him up, he’s the kind of player who ought to be coming back as part of a Soto deal. The Guardians’ once-young ace, Shane Bieber, is now 27 and only controllable through 2024, making him an unlikely target for the Nats as well as unlikely to be on the table from Cleveland’s side. Emmanuel Clase, whom the website pegs as the Guardians’ most valuable trade asset not named Bieber or Ramírez, is a closer, and bad teams don’t need good closers.
The Nats could press for shortstop Andrés Giménez, 24 in September and controllable through 2026. But while he would certainly improve the Nats now, he has less team control than they would consider ideal, and he is very likely perceived by Cleveland as too integral to the team now, locked in a battle for first in their division, to be traded. That might be the end of a conversation between the two front offices right there.
And now we come to the pinstriped 1,000-pound gorilla in the room. The New York Yankees long treated the rest of MLB, more or less openly, as its own bespoke feeder league. While the Steinbrenner days are gone, many Yankees fans still talk as though every great player is a future Yankee, and as though all the team need do to acquire the player of their heart’s desire is snap their fingers.
In truth, the Yankees are an awkward fit in this particular grouping of teams that could trade for Soto. They have a veteran-laden roster and a farm system similar to Cleveland’s, in that its conceivable trade centerpieces are not quite as shiny as other teams might be able to offer. All the same, it’s impossible to count them out.
To Washington: a bevy of Yankees prospects, namely shortstops Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, pitchers Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski, and outfield prospects Jasson Domínguez and Everson Pereira. To the Bronx: Juan Soto.
Why might the Nats say no?
It is immediately obvious why the Yankees stick out in this discussion so far: The maximum value that can be wrung out of a sextet of players that would genuinely interest the Nats is well below the value of Soto himself, according to Baseball Trade Values’ trade simulator. The simulator is unimpressed with the deal and declines to validate it, saying the Yankees need to include a higher-value player. Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t have a higher-value player, except for rental outfielder Aaron Judge.
As has been said, Baseball Trade Values should not be treated as gospel. Volpe is a consensus top-ten prospect. Peraza is one step from the majors. It would be difficult for the Yankees to go from having some of the best shortstop depth in MLB to having almost none. Pereira, conversely, rates as one of their most valuable pieces whereas MLB.com ranks him as their tenth-best prospect, outside of the top 100. For whatever reason, the website assigns less value to catcher Austin Wells, a top-100 prospect who could be included in a swap, as were Naylor from Cleveland and Campusano from San Diego in these other hypothetical deals.
The point is that I added up the prospects that the website said are New York’s most valuable, and the overall package is still wanting. That might or might not be the Nats’ assessment as well, but it’s clear that the Yankees have a comparative disadvantage in MLB-ready talent, and that affects the maximum value they can put in a deal.
However, the Yankees look relatively much better-positioned for a different swap…
Packaging Corbin with Soto
Including Corbin and his anchor of a contract in a Soto deal would assuredly lessen the Nats’ expected return. But it could also open the door to more potential trade partners, and it could balance the numbers better with teams that can offer enough value for Soto but might be wary of giving up that much.
To be quite clear: This is not my preferred approach. If it’s my call, I am trading Soto for the absolute biggest and best package possible, and that means eating Corbin’s decline years and aiming for a post-2025 renaissance.
The potentially fatal flaw in a Nats/Yankees deal for Soto is a dearth of top-end value in Washington’s return. But while it’s an understatement to say the bloom has come off Corbin’s rose since he was one of the 2018-19 offseason’s most coveted free agents, the Yankees did pursue him then, and they are known to be seeking more rotation depth at the deadline. Corbin is still certainly negative value, but it might not be all bad for the Bronx Bombers.
This is the same deal as the above from the Yankees’ side, but with Corbin now going to the Yankees, it’s more even according to the Baseball Trade Values simulator, and it would now be validated.
From the Nats’ perspective, of course, this is a much better deal than the previous trade. And from the Yankees’ perspective, it’s much worse. Regardless of what the numbers on this website say, the Yankees could certainly feel like this is too much to give up for Soto if they also have to take on Corbin and his bloated contract. But while the Nats might not have been suitably impressed by the Yankees offering six prospects for Soto, they could be more amenable if the deal would recharge their farm system while also taking Corbin off their hands.
As with the Yankees, the Dodgers seem like a better trade partner for the Nats if they are also taking on Corbin. L.A. certainly has the resources to absorb Corbin, and they’ve shown a willingness to take on overpaid veterans like David Price to acquire top talent without having to give up too much value in return, as well as to adopt underperforming stars like Albert Pujols as “projects” even in the midst of competitive seasons. Again, Corbin is obviously an anchor here, but it might not be a dealbreaker for the Blue People.
This deal sheds Cartaya from the above package but still brings Busch, Lux, Miller, and Pages to the District in exchange for Soto and Corbin.
There is an obvious problem here, however: Without Cartaya in the deal, this is a swap of Soto for four players Baseball Trade Values does not evaluate as being of sufficiently “high-value” to be the centerpiece in such a trade. The Nats would be getting a young stud infielder in Lux and three of the Dodgers’ best five prospects, but not their top overall prospect. And Baseball Trade Values thinks Cartaya is roughly twice as valuable as Miller, Pages, or Busch, so substituting him in this deal would make it an overpay on the Dodgers’ part.
In the real world, of course, there are ways to split the difference. The Nats could agree to retain a significant portion of Corbin’s guaranteed salary, ameliorating his negative trade value somewhat. Conceivably, the Dodgers could also offer two or three lesser prospects instead of one of their top-five prospects in this package. The problem remains that the Dodgers’ most valuable prospect plays the same position as the centerpiece of last summer’s big Nats/Dodgers blockbuster, and that is a tough sell.
Would the Cleveland Guardians really take on not just Soto’s expensive arb years, but also Corbin’s steep contract? Maybe not, but if they did, it could address a possible mismatch in how the Nats value what the Guardians have to offer. Taking on Corbin might be a way for Cleveland to take Giménez off the table without the Nats hanging up the phone.
This scaled-down swap sees the Nats get the major leaguer Kwan and top prospects Espino and Valera while shipping Soto and Corbin to the Cleve.
This is one of those “good news/bad news” situations. The good news is that Nats land three of their presumable top-four trade targets from the Guardians — Giménez presumably not up for discussion — including a major league outfielder and a blue-chip pitcher. The bad news is that those are the only three players they get, with Baseball Trade Values deeming this to be more than fair value without adding a fourth piece.
There are other ways to configure this, of course. The Nats could back off one of Espino or Valera, instead prioritizing some combination of Naylor, Rocchio, Williams, Allen, etc. The Guardians have six prospects in the back half of the top-100 list, so some prospect Tetris here is an option, giving the Nats more quantity in exchange for (perceived) quality.
From Cleveland’s perspective, this looks like an awfully enticing deal, if they can stomach an instant $50 million-plus hit to their payroll for the next two seasons. While they lose their upper echelon of minor league talent, it’s a small echelon to begin with, and they exchange the budding Kwan for the incandescent Soto in their corner outfield over the next three playoff pushes. I’m less convinced it would be enough for the Nats, whether optimized to bring in the Guards’ best prospects or to give them a grab bag of fringe top-100 types framing a centerpiece of Kwan plus Espino or Valera. Is there enough upside here to be a worthwhile return for Soto? This is where introducing Corbin to the trade picture starts to look like a pretty bad idea for the Nats’ long-term viability.
The bugaboo for Seattle could be giving up too much MLB-ready pitching. Well, what about offsetting that with Corbin? He would give them another arm (of dubious value) while lessening the expected return for Soto. A lot of payroll to absorb, yes, but it would leave Seattle a stronger team on the field. Maybe it could be done.
Going to D.C. here are pitchers Kirby and Hancock and up-the-middle positional prospects Arroyo, Marté, and Lazaro Montes, a center fielder.
Montes is just 17 and still playing in the Dominican Summer League, but he’s putting up astounding numbers and could be the ideal fifth piece in a trade package like this. The other names are familiar from the first permutation of the deal, without Corbin. Seattle keeps Gilbert as a stabilizing force and building block in their rotation.
This deal is a nice balance of floor and ceiling, bat and arm, for the Nats — even if the return is significantly lessened by asking the M’s to take on Corbin. Kirby can slot into the rotation right away, while Hancock, dominating at Double-A, is maybe a year away or less.
The downside for the Nats is that like the original deal without Corbin, it gives them nothing to bolster a post-Soto lineup, and there’s less flexibility to maneuver Kelenic into the deal if the Nats are intent on him as an MLB-ready hitter in the return. He could conceivably replace Arroyo and one of Hancock or Montes, from a value perspective, but that also diminishes the ceiling for the Nats somewhat. And Kelenic, of course, carries his own question marks.
The Diamondbacks are so deep that on paper, they could trade for Soto and then some, rather than the Nats needing to package Corbin with Soto as so not to end up with a light return. And in practice, the Diamondbacks are already well-stocked with underperforming pitchers, and they may not be eager to acquire Soto if that also means paying Corbin to put up a 5-something ERA through 2024. So, it’s questionable whether this type of deal makes any sense at all, even if the D-Backs might be a contender for Soto (still a big if). But let’s run through it anyway.
So, the Nats here prioritize getting a young major leaguer in Thomas, plus three mid-tier pitching prospects in Pfaadt, Nelson, and Drey Jameson. The D-Backs, of course, take on Corbin as well as Soto.
This is a reasonable if rather unexciting swap, as Soto mega-blockbusters go. While Jameson, Nelson, and Pfaadt are all having difficult seasons, they remain generally well-regarded as prospects, and the Nats could have varying levels of optimism that they’ll right the ship and reach their ceiling as #3/4 starters. Thomas is still developing as a major leaguer, but he also just turned 22 a few months ago and absolutely raked in the minors last year.
Where I think this one falls apart is just that there’s not enough upside here for the Nats. Even if Jameson, Nelson, and Pfaadt were having better years, they don’t look the part of frontline starters. Thomas could be an All-Star type, but does anyone think he’s the equal of Juan Soto? No.
There are other ways to do this deal given the D-Backs’ depth, but it’s tough to strike a good balance of quantity and quality, upside and floor. Note that this is the same number of players (four) as in the earlier deal, just exchanging top outfield prospect Carroll for sixth-ranked Arizona prospect Jameson. Even still, the earlier deal struggled to strike that same balance, and that problem is only accentuated with the Nats accepting a lesser return by shipping out Corbin as well.
Even if Baseball Trade Values says this is an even deal, I think the D-Backs don’t think twice about doing it — Corbin’s anchor contract notwithstanding — whereas the Nats almost certainly say no.
The Cardinals are one of the best trade partners with the Nats on paper in a swap for Soto alone. Adding in Corbin doesn’t change that. St. Louis could avoid giving up a key piece of their current roster, while the Nats could still get most (although not all) of what they want.
This trade subtracts major league infielder Gorman and adds outfield prospect Joshua Báez, while adding Corbin from the Nats’ side.
Báez is the Cardinals’ sixth-ranked prospect, although there’s some variability in his forecast, given he’s 19 and hasn’t played above Low-A. He is objectively a much less valuable piece than Gorman, who could play second or third base for the Nats right away and was a higher-ranked prospect than Báez is now.
The key point here is that the infield trio that the Nats are likely targeting from St. Louis is, taken together, more valuable (according to the simulator) than the Soto+Corbin package from Washington. The Nats would still get a near-MLB piece in Walker, with Graceffo and Winn not far away, and two A-ball teens with big upside in Hence and Báez. But they wouldn’t get the ready-made infield that they likely want for Soto if he goes to St. Louis.
That being said, the Cardinals may not be willing to discuss a deal that includes Gorman, Walker, and Winn. They could take one of Gorman or Walker off the table by agreeing to take on Corbin, which might make this a more attractive play for them. In fact, the Cardinals may actually prefer to include Gorman or Carlson than Walker, who is a consensus top-ten prospect. But if they have to choose, the Nats ought to hold out for Walker, who is younger (just 20) and has higher upside.
There was an obvious obstacle in the earlier discussed deal between the Blue Jays and the Nats: It’s difficult to assemble a deal that makes sense for the Nats without including Manoah, who is likely untouchable from Toronto’s perspective. If they took on Corbin’s contract, though, the Blue Jays would be able to exclude Manoah from trade talks altogether, and the Nats would have to set their sights lower.
The Nats here do end up taking Moreno as the headliner, along with Tiedemann, Groshans, and Martínez, in an all-prospects deal. Toronto gets Soto plus Corbin.
The Blue Jays are an awkward partner for the Nats for all the reasons previously discussed, and with the Nats’ dream acquisition in Manoah firmly out of reach, this looks a lot like the Nats essentially settling for a centerpiece who is 1) underperforming somewhat this season, 2) doesn’t play a position of need, and 3) has yet to establish major league value, again plus three more prospects who are nice but not swoonworthy.
This version of the trade would certainly be more palatable for Toronto. As with the D-Backs deal mentioned earlier, while Baseball Trade Values suggests it’s an even swap, I don’t think the Blue Jays would hesitate much to make this deal. The Jays are capable of spending what it takes to absorb the payroll hit, and they’re not giving up much given their fantastic catching depth and rather top-heavy farm system.
Any conversations between the Padres and the Nats are going to be clouded by the uncertain status of MacKenzie Gore. Bringing Corbin into the conversation, however, could make Gore’s status more or less irrelevant, allowing the teams to pivot to other names that could be of interest to the Nats. It also opens up an interesting possibility of the Nats mitigating Corbin’s hit to the overall trade value by taking back some (shorter-term) bad payroll in exchange.
Here, the Nats gain Abrams, Campusano, Hassell, and Wood, while also assuming overpaid veteran utilityman Wil Myers‘ salary in the last year of his deal and adding young major league pitcher Adrián Morejón.
Morejón, 23 and controllable through 2025, has been overshadowed in the Padres organization by Gore, in large part because the Cuban has battled injuries in his career. He underwent Tommy John surgery last year. When he’s been healthy, he has been outstanding, but he’s only pitched 41 innings at the major league level since debuting in 2019, and for much of that time, his service clock has been running. The overall package — injury uncertainty and only three and a half years of control — makes him significantly less valuable than even a wounded Gore.
That being said, the numbers in this trade simulator match up admirably. And more than maybe any other team, the Padres are well-positioned to take on Corbin, as they can offset his hit to their payroll by trading back a bad contract of their own. If it’s an expiring contract like Myers, that is especially attractive to the Nats, who can afford to pay Myers for the rest of the year before bidding him and his drain on their finances adieu.
In the end, is it a match? The Nats might say there’s just not enough pitching in here, which remains San Diego’s biggest weakness in vying for Soto. And the Padres might say this is still too much — including two young major leaguers and all three of their top-100 prospects, while taking on yet another bad contract for 2023 and 2024 — for them to sign off. On paper, it’s a nearly perfect deal, but the reality may vary.