The Washington Nationals are shaking up the trade deadline by floating Juan Soto in MLB trade rumors. If another team is going to land one of the best players ever to hit the trade market, it’s likely going to require significant sacrifices.
Soto’s situation is unlike many situations we’ve seen in recent years. While MLB stars like Trea Turner and Manny Machado have been traded, those deals happened when the players had less than two seasons of contractual control remaining. Any team that lands Soto would have him through 2024.
- Juan Soto contract: $17.1 million (2022), arbitration eligible (2023-’24)
Soto is also arguably the most talented hitter in baseball. A perennial NL MVP candidate, this is a 23-year-old outfielder who can instantly become the face of a franchise. Washington knows how valuable Soto is and it is setting an extraordinary asking price.
It will take more than just a pool of top prospects for a club to land Soto this summer or during the MLB offseason. If a general manager wants to put their team in the best position to acquire one of the game’s biggest stars, they’ll likely need to go to ownership first.
According to Jim Bowden of The Athletic, the Nationals want any team acquiring Soto to also absorb the “bad contract” of starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. This is in addition to Washington’s demands for multiple top prospects and young MLB-ready players.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Nationals hold the leverage in this situation at a time when both MLB postseason contenders and even those on the outside want Soto. As a result, Washington can use its positioning to try and offload a terrible contract.
Impact of Patrick Corbin contract on Juan Soto trade
The Washington Nationals signed Patrick Corbin in December 2018, a six-year deal worth $140 million that seemed risky even at the time. While Corbin later helped the club win the World Series, his deal is now one of the worst MLB contracts moving forward.
- Patrick Corbin contract: $23.416 million salary (2022), $24.416 million salary (2023). $35.4 million salary (2024), $10 million deferred in 2025
An MLB owner will need to sign off on absorbing the more than $50 million owed to Corbin over the next three years. Washington will likely balk at being asked to cover any significant portion of the deal. Keep in mind that the team acquiring Soto will likely want to sign him to an extension and that will cost upwards of $500 million.
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There are likely several organizations willing to eat Corbin’s contract if it gives them a better shot at acquiring Soto. The 33-year-old southpaw does have an awful 5.87 ERA and 1.70 WHIP this season, so he likely would function as nothing more than highly-paid pitching depth.
The Nationals could likely receive an even greater haul of young talent if they took Corbin out of the deal. However, the opportunity to offload more than $50 million in guaranteed salary is likely a huge factor for ownership with a sale of the team on the horizon.