, With the Juan Soto sweepstakes ramping up, Jake Mintz ranks all 29 MLB teams with a chance to land the superstar.,

Major League Baseball

2 mins ago

By Jake MintzFOX Sports MLB Writer

Unless you’ve been unplugging at a yoga retreat or hiking the Appalachian Trail for the past two weeks, you know that Juan Soto is very much on the trade block. Since the precocious 23-year-old megastar reportedly declined a $440 million offer from the Nationals, rumors both legitimate and reckless have popped up about his future.

Everyone wants to know: Where is Soto going? I don’t know, you don’t know, Soto doesn’t know, Ken Rosenthal doesn’t know, and the Nationals don’t know. Only time will reveal the truth. Until then, all we have is speculation. 

Good thing speculation is rad as hell.

Juan Soto’s top five potential trade destination

Ben Verlander breaks down what he believes are the five teams most likely to trade for Juan Soto.

But first, we must ask: What will it take to get Soto?

1. Prospects

Listen, the 2022 Washington Nationals might be a rubbish ballclub, but they’re not total dummies. This is not a trade for a bullpen arm or a bench bat; Soto is one of the five best players in the world, he’s still only 23, and he has the potential to alter a franchise. It’s going to take more than an IOU and a bag of jelly beans to trade for him. And because it doesn’t look like the Nats will be good in the near future, they probably want either prospects or really young major-leaguers under team control for a while.

2. Wins

There’s no point putting a V8 engine into a car with no wheels. Juan Soto is a free agent after the 2024 season. If your organization can’t build a competitive team around him in that window, stay seated. This discussion is not for you.

3. Money

This one is a bit more complicated. Whoever trades for Soto will likely be responsible for the remainder of his $17 million salary this year and his salary for the next two years before he hits free agency. Arbitration will dampen Soto’s salary below his true market value, but he’s still in line to get about $23 million next year and close to $28 million the following year.

There are teams in contention for Soto — Tampa *cough* Cleveland *cough* — that have been reluctant to drop that much coin on a single player. Just something to keep in mind.

Then there’s the extension component. A team could trade for Soto with no intent to extend him, but if a big-market club makes the deal, a potential extension would probably become a factor immediately.

Juan Soto has options: Yankees, Mets & Padres in the mix

Ben Verlander looks at everything you need to know about a potential Juan Soto trade.

OK, enough jibber-jabber. Here are the 29 MLB teams, tiered and ranked by how likely it is that Soto ends up with them.

No way in a gazillion light-years

29. Oakland: The A’s are probably the team least likely to get Soto. They suck this year, will probably suck next year, have a middling farm system and never spend any money. They have one player on their current roster (Elvis Andrus) making more than $6 million per year.

28. Cincinnati: Similar to Oakland, this team isn’t winning, won’t win anytime soon and doesn’t have a strong farm system. Oh, and this ownership group just cut tons of payroll. 

27. Kansas City: This farm system is underratedly meh right now, so a potential Soto package would probably have to include Bobby Witt Jr., and there’s no way the Royals trade Bobby Witt Jr.

26. Detroit: This team has been more disappointing than a rained-out wedding. If the Tigers had lived up to the hype in ‘22, this could have been a more realistic landing spot, but Soto alone cannot save this team, especially considering Detroit would probably need to part with Riley Greene and Tarik Skubal.

25. Anaheim: At this point, the Angels just bum me out. There’s not nearly enough in the minors for them to trade for Soto, and there aren’t enough wins on the ledger to make it worth it even if they had a stacked system.

The NL West is weird

24. Colorado: Who even knows what the Rockies are doing? They could probably scrap together a decent package for Soto (Ezekial Tovar and Zac Veen are underrated), but, like, why? Oh god, I just remembered they signed Kris Bryant.

23. Arizona: The D-Backs have an interesting, young group of position players who are matriculating or have already reached the big leagues (Alek Thomas, Corbin Carroll, Jordan Lawlar, Druw Jones), so they have enough hors d’oeuvres for the party. But this roster needs to add pitching before it’s ready to compete. A year or two from now, maybe Arizona would be a factor.

The long shots with eyes on the future

22. Miami: This is exactly the type of all-in, wild, live-for-today, don’t-worry-about-tomorrow move that former owner Jeffrey Loria would have been all about. But alas, he sold the team back in 2017, and the new ownership group has been much less flashy.

21. Pittsburgh: The Pirates’ farm system is one of baseball’s best, but a Soto deal would likely have to include one of Pittsburgh’s top three young guns (Oneil Cruz, 2021 No. 1 pick Henry Davis or the recently drafted Termarr Johnson). That steep price probably doesn’t jive with Pittsburgh’s contention calendar (2024 looks more realistic than 2023). 

20. Baltimore: This organization is similar to Pittsburgh but a year ahead of schedule, considering the O’s have been a pleasant surprise this season. The Orioles’ system is so loaded with elite hitting prospects that they might be able to get a deal done without involving Adley Rutschman. Does Soto move the needle enough? Maybe, but a deal of this magnitude would be a notable zag for GM Mike Elias & Co.

Contenders without prospects

19. Houston: Any deal would need to include rookie sensation Jeremy Peña, who’s already tearing it up in the bigs. The system beyond that is thin, and “offense” isn’t exactly a weakness for Houston right now.

18. Philadelphia: The Phillies have a pair of young, exciting, recently drafted high school pitchers in their system (Mick Abel, Andrew Painter), but it’s likely the Nats would want the assuredness that comes with an elite position-player prospect. Also, the Phillies have $80 bajillion guaranteed to Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos over the next few seasons.

17. Milwaukee: Jackson Chourio, a wiry, electric center fielder in the Brewers’ system, is only 18 and has dropped jaws with his performance in low-A. But unless the Nats really, really think he’s the realest of all the deals, Milwaukee doesn’t have the pieces to get it done.

Home Run Derby: Juan Soto wins and proves himself on biggest stage

Ben Verlander reacts to Juan Soto winning the 2022 Home Run Derby after turning down a $440 million offer from the Washington Nationals.

16. Atlanta: The idea of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Soto together in the corners for a half-decade is exciting enough to make a senator twerk, but the Braves’ farm system is extremely bare after the Matt Olson trade (they don’t have a single top-100 prospect, per FanGraphs). Also, I’m skeptical the Nats would move Soto in-division

15. Chicago (AL): The underwhelming Sox could use an offensive boost, but they have a bottom-three farm system in baseball. It would take a group of young big-leaguers such as Luis Robert and Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez, and even then, the Nats would likely say no.

14. Minnesota: The Twins kind of rejuvenated their system with the José Berrios trade last year, but they still don’t have any no-doubt future All-Stars scampering about their minor-league system. Maybe they pull something off with the players they drafted, like, last week, but you’d imagine the Nats could find a better trade partner than the Twins.

AL East teams with jusssssst enough prospects

13. Toronto: To pull off a Soto coup, Toronto would have to part with top prospect Gabriel Moreno and practically every other player of value in the system after dealing Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson for Berríos last year. Maybe the Blue Jays entice the Nats with Bo Bichette (still only 24) and take on Patrick Corbin‘s contract, too? Eh, I’m pretty sure Washington can find a better package from a more desperate team.

12. Boston: It has taken a few years to rebuild the farm after former GM Dave Dombrowski dealt everyone and their brother away to build the 2018 title team (heck yes, flags fly forever). Good drafting, developing and the talent influx from the Mookie Betts trade have revitalized this farm enough that you could squint and build a deal (Marcelo Mayer and one of Triston Casas or Nick Yorke as headliners). But the Sox are tailspinning their way out of contention and might be sellers themselves soon.

Rich teams not winning this year

11. Chicago (NL): The Cubs’ signing Seiya Suzuki indicated that they plan to win within the next few years, even if 2022 has been rough. Remember when the Cubs traded all the beloved, famous guys who won the World Series? As sad as that was, it revitalized their farm system, giving them the ammunition to go and get Soto. The Cubs are a sneaky dark horse here.

10. Texas: Last offseason, the Rangers dropped a half-billion dollars on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, so we know they’re trying to win sooner rather than later. The system is middle of the pack, so while Texas probably has enough to get a deal done, this organization can’t match the teams ahead of it on this list.

Cheapskates with stacked systems

9. Cleveland: Per FanGraphs, Cleveland has an impressive seven prospects ranked in the top 106 in baseball and oodles of depth beyond that. The Guardians could swing a deal for Soto without completely decimating their system; think Daniel Espino, Nolan Jones, Brayan Rocchio and some complementary arms. 

When you consider that a) the AL Central is totally up for grabs both this year and in years to come, b) Cleveland hasn’t developed an All-Star center fielder since Michael Brantley left and c) the lineup desperately needs a true middle-of-the-order bopper to pair with José Ramirez, a move for Soto makes a ton of sense. Unfortunately, folks around the club are skeptical that front office brass would increase payroll enough to cover Soto’s hefty arbitration salaries. 

8. Tampa Bay: There’s a scenario in which the Rays trade for Soto, keep him through the end of next season and then deal him before he reaches free agency after 2024. Tampa has more than enough depth and high-level talent to entice the Nats and could use reinforcements, considering that essentially the whole squad has missed time this season due to injuries. 

Will this happen? Probably not, but remember that the Rays were really close to acquiring Kris Bryant last year at the deadline before the Giants swooped in. Soto playing in the Trop every day is nearly inconceivable, but the Rays are sneaky contenders.

Sleeping Giants (and Mariners)

7. Seattle: The contending M’s would probably need to deal one of their young big-league arms, Logan Gilbert or George Kirby, in addition to top prospect Noelvi Marte, last year’s first-rounder Harry Ford, maybe the stalled-out Jarred Kelenic and one or two other notable minor-leaguers. Seattle’s big-league roster is already flush with outfielders — Julio Rodriguez, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis and Jesse Winker — but you make room for Juan Soto. Maybe a Soto sign-and-extend is the big-money move M’s fans were waiting for all offseason?

6. San Francisco: The Giants have a good team with a lot of solid players, but they lack a truly elite hitter. Last offseason they focused on pitching, which has had mixed results. Carlos Rodón has shoved, but the offense is desperate for a real masher. 

San Francisco could have as much as $60 million coming off the books this winter (Rodón opt out, Brandon Belt free agent, Evan Longoria club option), which puts the team in great position to pay and even extend Soto. The system has the horses, too, with scintillating slugger Marco Luciano a true headliner who could get a deal done alongside other top prospects Luis Matos and Kyle Harrison.

The favorites

5. New York (AL): The galaxy brain move for the Yanks would be to trade for Soto, let Aaron Judge walk in free agency and then just dump the bag of cash on Soto. Yankees fans will scream “por que no los dos?” 

But to deal for last week’s Derby champ in the first place, you’d have to give up one if not both of hometown kid Anthony Volpe and eBay manipulator Jasson Dominguez, in addition to a whole host of other guys. GM Brian Cashman has typically shied away from dramatic deadline blockbusters, but Soto could be worth it. Still, I’d bet the Yankees pass and focus on reinforcing their already stellar roster.

4. New York (NL): You’ve seen the Photoshops. You’ve seen the out-of-context Soto quotes about how much he likes Citi Field. You might even know that his younger brother was originally slated to sign with the Mets before he zagged and went to the Nats. But is it really possible? Would the Nats trade Soto in-division? Folks around the game are skeptical, but the Mets have the money, the need and just enough prospect pizazz to accomplish the unthinkable. 

Triple-A catcher Francisco Álvarez is the consensus top prospect in baseball, while Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio and the recently drafted Kevin Parada are also top-100 guys. I doubt the Mets could top the best offers from Los Angeles, San Diego or St. Louis, but maybe those teams hesitate to pull the trigger and get caught napping, and Soto ends up in Queens for a decade and a half.

3. St. Louis: The prospects are good enough (Jordan Walker, Mason Wynn, Ivan Herrera, Nolan Gorman) and with Yadi, Waino and Pujols likely done at year’s end, there’s almost $30 million coming off the books. More importantly, this front office and ownership group have a long track record of pulling off monumental trade-and-extensions with guys such as Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Matt Holliday, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Mark McGwire.

2. San Diego: The past few seasons, GM AJ Preller has wrung his farm system dry like a damp towel, bidding adieu to prospects galore in trades for Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea and Austin Nola. But even though this system doesn’t have the depth it used to, there might still be enough change in the couch cushions. A package headlined by McKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams and Robert Hassell with some other long shots thrown in might be enough, especially if the Padres are willing to eat the rest of Corbin’s massive contract. 

1. Los Angeles: FreddieFreeman, Mookie Betts and Soto would be unfair, and that’s exactly why the Dodgers have to be considered front-runners here. Despite a decade of success, L.A. boasts one of the best farm systems in baseball, thanks to its outrageously good scouting and development staff. 

The other thing in the Dodgers’ favor is that they can offer a variety of players. Minor-league pitchers? Bobby Miller and Ryan Pepiot. Hitting prospects? Diego Cartaya, Michael Busch and Miguel Vargas all rake. Gavin Lux is a valuable, young MLB-ready piece, while Dustin May (remember him?) is almost healthy and could be included. 

And don’t forget: These two teams pulled off the blockbuster of last summer’s deadline, so there’s no reason to think they won’t do it again. This is why you build up prospect depth, my dear friends.

Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.

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