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The Juan Soto sweepstakes is down to just four teams, according to Jim Bowden of CBS Sports, who noted the process is “moving along at a rapid pace.”
The San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals are believed to be the front-runners for the Washington Nationals star, Bowden added. However, he noted that is “subject to change as any of the four teams still in the mix could improve their offers at any moment.”
The news comes after ESPN’s Jeff Passan said Friday on the Dan Patrick Show that he believes there’s an 80 percent chance Soto will be moved ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline.
However, Passan noted that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who is asking for “125 percent of Juan Soto’s value,” needs to lower his asking price, otherwise he’s unsure if Soto will get moved “for now.”
In addition, Passan mentioned the Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers as the “likeliest landing spots” if Rizzo drops the asking price. He also listed the Cardinals and Seattle Mariners as potential destinations.
The Nationals began taking trade calls on Soto after he rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. However, he is under team control through 2024 with two more years of arbitration eligibility, so Washington can wait for the best deal to move him, whether that be now or two years from now.
Soto is one of the best young talents in baseball and is expected to become one of the highest-paid players in the sport on his next contract.
The 23-year-old is having a solid 2022 campaign, hitting .243/.400/.480 with 20 home runs, 45 RBI and five stolen bases in 97 games. He was also named an All-Star for the second straight season and won this year’s Home Run Derby.
Beyond that, he is a World Series champion, two-time Silver Slugger and won the batting title in 2020.
Any team that’s interested in Soto must also be willing to take on starting pitcher Patrick Corbin in a trade package, per Bowden. The Nationals want “multiple major leaguers and top prospects” and to “offload” the remainder of Corbin’s six-year, $140 million deal.
The Padres have been linked as a possible destination for Soto since it was reported that the Nationals were fielding offers for the star outfielder. According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Friars are interested in pairing him with star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
“An early favorite for Soto just might be the San Diego Padres, the former ‘small’ market team that’s been full of surprises and thrills the past few years under GM A.J. Preller, a young man who knows the game and loves a gamble,” Heyman wrote.
San Diego hasn’t been shy about acquiring star talent to help it pursue a World Series title—Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado and Mike Clevinger, to name a few—so it would be no surprise to see it land Soto.
As for the Cardinals, bringing in Soto would undoubtedly give the team an upper hand on the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central race and help it make a deep playoff run. Adding him to a lineup that includes sluggers Paul Goldschmidt (.335/.417/.619) and Nolan Arenado (.296/.359/.528) could be dangerous.