It is unlikely to be lost on the Washington Nationals that they have the worst record in the major leagues along with, at the same time, the biggest trade piece of any team at the MLB deadline come 6 p.m ET on Tuesday. It would make sense to deal 23-year-old outfielder Juan Soto in order to advance the restocking of a franchise that won the World Series just three years ago. If the right opportunity comes, that is.
Soto told reporters Sunday afternoon that he's ready to be on the other side of the deadline — no matter if it's with the Nats or a new team.
"I just want to get it over with and see what’s going to happen,” Soto said. "I mean, just go over that day and start over here or wherever I'm at."
The St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres are viewed by many analysts as the frontrunners for Soto, whose .246/.404/.479 batting line puts him near the top 10 hitters in MLB, yet still sells short of what he probably would mean to any lineup going forward. He has been one of the top 3-4 hitters in the league since the 2019 season started. The Cards and Padres have the young players the Nationals seek, and they have shown the will in recent years to pull the trigger on big-name acquisitions. St. Louis has added Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt by trade, and the Padres made a big splash in free agency by adding Manny Machado, among others.
The Cards and Padres also would be in position to make moves in the standings and, theoretically, come playoff time, by adding a player of Soto's caliber. Both clubs would be in the playoff tournament if the season ended today, but without much wriggle room. The Cards, in second place in the NL Central but within striking distance of the Milwaukee Brewers, are ninth in runs scored in MLB. The Padres, playing without superstar Fernando Tatis all season, are second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and in the middle of the league on runs scored. A bat like Solo's would transform either lineup.
Washington's price for Soto is likely to be met by one or more teams — it's a matter of general manager Mike Rizzo believing that it's enough talent to make it worth one of the special players in MLB. Is this the way to make the Nationals great again?
MLB Power Rankings
Rankings are determined by staff vote
Records and statistics are through July 31
1. New York Yankees (69-34, Last week: 1): Aaron Judge is on pace to hit 66 home runs this season. While short of Barry Bonds' record 73 homers, it would surpass Roger Maris' famous team record of 61, hit of course in 1961.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (68-33, LW: 2): Rookie slugger James Outman, despite having a last name more befitting of a pitcher, hit a home run in his first MLB plate appearance.
3. Houston Astros (67-36, LW: 3): They have a 12-game lead on the Mariners in the AL West after Yordan Álvarez delivered a game-ending hit in the series finale at Minute Maid Park. They won't face each other again during the regular season.
4. New York Mets (64-37, LW: 4): They haven't been willing (yet) to meet the Cubs' reported price for catcher Willson Contreras.
5. Atlanta Braves (62-41, LW: 5): Austin Riley, with 26, broke Henry Aaron's team record for extra-base hits in the month of July.
6. Toronto Blue Jays (57-45, LW: 9t): They're 11-3 under new manager John Schneider after José Berríos had one of his best starts of the season in a win against the Tigers.
7. Philadelphia Phillies (55-47, LW: 11): Left-hander Ranger Suárez didn't start the season great, but he's into a groove now, lowering his ERA to 3.60 in 18 starts after keeping the Pirates off the scoreboard Saturday.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (57-45, LW: 9t): Hunter Renfroe has six home runs in nine games. Raiders wideout Hunter Renfrow, while he admittedly plays a different sport that just started training camp, will never catch up.
9. San Diego Padres (57-46, LW: 7): Fernando Tatis has been taking batting practice and might face full-speed pitching this week if his wrist continues to improve.
10. St. Louis Cardinals (54-48, LW: 13): Top prospect Jordan Walker, who could be dealt in a Soto trade, is batting .305/.390/.514 with 12 homers in 80 games.
11. Seattle Mariners (55-48, LW: 8): Julio Rodríguez hit the IL after being hit with a pitch on his hand. It could have been a lot worse, but he'll miss several games regardless.
12. Minnesota Twins (53-48, LW: 14): They need impact pitching at the deadline, either in the rotation, or bullpen, or both.
13. Tampa Bay Rays (54-48, LW: 6): Lefty ace Shane McClanahan sustained a drop in velocity in his most recent start, which is not what they wanted to hear.
14. Cleveland Guardians (52-49, LW: 16): They finished just 13-15 in July, but the rest of the AL Central wasn't much better so they're right in the middle of the race.
15. San Francisco Giants (51-51, LW: 15): They're 4 1/2 back in the NL Wild Card race, but indications are they'll be sellers, with lefty Carlos Rodón a big target for lots of teams.
16. Chicago White Sox (51-50, LW: 18): Why can't they make the entire team out of righty Dylan Cease, who is 7-2 with a 0.51 ERA and 90 strikeouts in his past 12 starts.
17. Baltimore Orioles (51-51, LW: 17): The O's are .500, three games back in the AL Wild Card, and buyers at the deadline.
18. Boston Red Sox (51-52, LW: 12): They're in last place in the AL East, and while they're only 3 1/2 back in the Wild Card, they're projected by most analysts to be sellers at the deadline. The news of Trevor Story having a hairline fracture in his right wrist doesn't help.
19. Miami Marlins (47-55, LW: 19): They're unlikely to make a run at the playoffs, but it's also unlikely they'll sell too much at the deadline. They're doing the limbo, only it's not nearly as much fun.
20. Texas Rangers (41-49, LW: 21): They should trade for Soto. They have the pieces, the cash, the structure with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to build around him. Take advantage of the other teams unwilling to press the button.
21. Arizona Diamondbacks (45-56, LW: 22): They've moved outfielder David Peralta, and righty Merrill Kelly could be next, even though he says he'd be cool with staying.
22. Los Angeles Angels (43-59, LW: 23): It's unlikely that two-way demigod Shohei Ohtani will be traded, but just the fact that it's being discussed should be a major concern for club ownership.
23. Chicago Cubs (41-60, LW: 27): It's just a matter of finding whatever they think is the best haul for Willson Contreras.
24. Detroit Tigers (41-62, LW: 26): Javier Báez slugged .512 in June but dropped to about .360 in July, which includes a home run Sunday against Berríos, his brother in law.
25. Colorado Rockies (43-50, LW: 20): Kris Bryant is batting .349/.413/.627 in July, but his plantar fasciitis is not going away.
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26. Cincinnati Reds (40-61, LW: 28): Brandon Drury has 20 homers, just an amazing story of perseverance at age 29.
27. Oakland Athletics (39-65, LW: 29): In addition to the likelihood of righty Frankie Montas being traded, outfielder Ramón Laureano is said to have an active market.
28. Kansas City Royals (40-62, LW: 24t): Salvador Pérez has two home runs in his first three games coming off the injured list, including a game-winner Sunday against the Yankees. Therein ends most of the good news for KC.
29. Pittsburgh Pirates (40-62, LW: 24t): First-round pick Termarr Johnson signed a contract and took batting practice at PNC Park for the first time this past weekend.
30. Washington Nationals (35-68, LW: 30): Slugger Josh Bell would make a nice pickup for somebody at the deadline, though his price wouldn't be as steep as that of Soto.