7:41 am: There is a “growing sense” that the Padres are the likeliest landing spot for not only Soto but also Josh Bell, tweets Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. There’s some momentum in those talks, he adds. Similarly, the Post’s Jesse Dougherty tweets that the Nationals are beginning to narrow the field.
San Diego, of course, already has Eric Hosmer installed at first base, but they’ve been trying for more than a year to unload the remainder of that contract. Speculatively speaking, if the Nats truly want to maximize the return on Soto (and perhaps Bell), they could be the ones to absorb the remaining three years and $ 39MM on Hosmer’s contract themselves. The trio of Hosmer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg would be a lot of underwater contracts for one team, of course, but the Nats have little else on the payroll in the immediate future.
7:12 am: Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is now under 12 hours away, and the Juan Soto trade possibility that has captivated the entire sport and its fanbase remains unresolved. As of yesterday, the Soto auction was generally believed to be a three-team bidding war, with the Padres, Cardinals and Dodgers all reported to be heavily involved. That doesn’t preclude another team (or teams) from jumping in to make a late push, of course; it’d frankly rate as something of a surprise if that didn’t happen, in fact. Teams will miss out on other targets, priorities will pivot, and stances on “off limits” prospects will soften.
Up until this point, a sticking point for the Cardinals has been their unwillingness to include young outfielder Dylan Carlson and their very best prospects, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets. The 23-year-old Carlson is known be of interest to the Nats as an immediate outfield plug-in, and as a former first-round pick and top-10 overall prospect (per Baseball America), that’s not surprising – even if he’s been more of a solid regular than a star to this point in his young career. The switch-hitting Carlson is batting .260 / .334 / .426 dating back to last season, and he’s cut down his strikeout rate considerably this season.
Carlson can be controlled another four years beyond the current season and is capable of handling all three outfield spots. There’s perhaps a sense that given his youth and his pedigree, he has another gear that he’s not yet tapped into. Further clouding the Cardinals possibility, Jon Heyman of the New York Post suggests that Washington may not be as high on lefty Matthew Liberatore as others in the industry; The Athletic’s Jim Bowden wrote something similar a couple weeks back.
Turning to the Padres, the health of one of their own top young arms, southpaw MacKenzie Gore, is a potential complication. Gore has been shut down with with an elbow strain. He’s expected to avoid surgery, but the specter of an arm injury for a potential key pitcher in the deal has surely altered the Nats’ valuation. The Padres, meanwhile, are now over the luxury-tax threshold after their stunning addition of Josh Hader yesterday. They’ve reportedly been loath to cross that line for a second consecutive season. However, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale suggests that if it means acquiring both Hader and Soto, the Padres “won’t mind blowing completely past” the tax line.
Over in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have become increasingly optimistic about their chances over the past couple days, per Jack Harris of the LA Times. The Dodgers’ perennially deep farm system is rife with top prospects – they have seven of Baseball America’s top 100 farmhands at the moment – and they also possess controllable young big leaguers of potential interest. Both Harris and Heyman suggest infielder Gavin Lux (four more years of team control) and righty Dustin May (nearing return from Tommy John surgery, with three more years of control) as potential targets for Washington.
As of yesterday morning, the Yankees were reported to be a “long shot,” the Rangers weren’t said to be particularly aggressive, and Mariners president Jerry Dipoto had gone on record to suggest his team is unlikely to land Soto. Adding to that list of teams that inquired but seems unlikely to be a serious player, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Guardians looked into Soto but talks never gained traction. Washington was interested in top Cleveland pitching prospect Daniel Espinobut health was again a factor in talks, as he’s been out since April due to a knee injury.