Is your team trying to trade for Juan Soto? If not, it should be. How competition stacks up.

With barely a day remaining to determine Juan Soto’s fate – move to a contender at Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, or draw walks in baseball purgatory for two more months – the field for his services seems to narrow.

It can be argued that the opposite should be happening.

With two full seasons and this upcoming playoff drive available to clubs aiming to acquire the Washington Nationals slugger, it’s the usual suspects, fitting a specific profile, in play for Soto. Bigger-spending, bigger-market clubs with flush farm systems are indeed the publicly-known players, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals certainly among the finalists. There’s always the chance a surprise team stealthily emerges in the hours leading to Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET deadline, but the acquisition cost dictates the field will remain narrow.

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Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto
Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto

Yet we can spot many more clubs that should strongly consider it, even if many lack the prospect goods to acquire this 23-year-old hitting savant.

Twenty-four, to be precise.

Indeed, the Soto derby should be a free-for-all, not boutique shopping, but alas, the manner in which clubs cling to prospects and bank on five-year plans will make this an exclusive club. That’s too bad. Here’s a look at what we think good, healthy competition for this generation’s Ted Williams might look like:

Six who should sit out

OK, Juan Soto isn’t for everybody. Certainly not the Washington Nationals, who have determined a rebuild will be longer and more painful than they imagined, longer than the two-plus years in which they control Soto’s rights. With Soto rightfully motivated to test free agency at 26, his two full seasons may not be enough onramp for some clubs to contend.

So we’re sorry, Miami Marlins. Depleting your system will only leave Soto in a similar spot as Washington, with no sluggers around him. Forget about it, Los Angeles Angels – you don’t have the prospects and the baseball world won’t abide Soto, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani racing to the bottom amid your dysfunction.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland A’s, Kansas City Royals – sorry, you’ve dug yourselves too big a hole already. The road to viability can’t run through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Money matters

Here’s where the field should greatly widen. Soto has two years of salary arbitration remaining, during which he’s expected to shatter standards for third- and fourth-year arbitration players. Without getting down to the finite details, let’s just say Soto will cost you $30 million for each of the next two seasons.

Now imagine this: Juan Soto, free agent, available for a two-year, $60 million deal.

Who couldn’t afford that? Who shouldn’t try to make that happen?

No, this isn’t Fantasyland and you can’t just scratch Soto that check. You must cough up prospects, too. But in this $11 billion industry, there’s no beancounter from Tampa Bay to Tacoma that couldn’t fit this talent into their budget. In short, all the excuses clubs use to avoid high-end free agents every winter don’t apply.

Go for it

Here’s where a forward-looking franchise can really lay the groundwork for 2023 and ’24. If this new playoff format has taught us anything, it’s that putting yourself totally out of contention takes work. In the AL, 11 of 15 teams consider themselves alive. It’s more selective in the NL, but that’s because at least five teams declared themselves out of it before the season began, and one superteam in L.A. has put three clubs on life support.

In short: You’re going to have a chance far more often than you won’t. And what kind of front office are you that you can’t concoct a solid two-year plan around a generational hitter?

Prospect paralysis

In New York, Anthony Volpe already has two strikes against him. The Yankees’ prized prospect has been indirectly cited by owner Hal Steinbrenner as the reason the club didn’t pursue a big-bucks shortstop this winter. Now, reports indicate the Bombers are unwilling to part with him in a Soto package.

Imagine being deemed the prospect too good to expend for Carlos Correa or Juan Soto. No pressure, kid!

Even if Volpe is The Next Jeter, the Yankees’ unwillingness to part with him goes to a greater obsession leaguewide with young players and the Fear of Unsustainability. With Soto, the Yankees would have one of the greatest lineups we’ve seen in modern history, balanced and brutal. They could re-sign Aaron Judge, do it all over again in 2023 and ’24 and bid Soto a fond farewell.

Shortstop? Pretty sure they can string together a few Isiah Kiner-Falefas in the meantime to catch the ball.

While not everyone is the Yankees, their snapshot is indicative of an industry mindset that labels minor-leaguers as “assets” instead of “prospects.” Well, here’s a perfect chance to cash in some “assets” for a sure thing.

Pivot point

Lest we forget, it’s not like trading for Soto locks you in for life and ensures your farm system will be depleted forever. Guess what? Juan Soto at the 2023 trade deadline will still have massive trade value. As will Juan Soto in the winter of 2023-24 and Juan Soto at the 2024 trade deadline.

This is the beauty of trading for a 23-year-old franchise player: He should only grow in value. And two years of control means you can flip him if your plan goes awry next year, or your roster needs greater balance.

Juan Soto, dare we say, is the ultimate “asset” once he’s in your possession.


Alas, we don’t expect to be too surprised come 5:59 ET on Tuesday. And there’s a better than faint chance Soto remains a National, that a trade of this complexity is too hard to navigate while clubs close in on traditional deadline needs in the rotation and bullpen.

And yeah, not everyone has the prospect depth to make this happen – though that’s as much perception as it is reality, given the ability of clubs like the Padres and Yankees to hype their prospects, and the foot soldiers in the media who push those messages and feed the trade rumor industrial complex.

(Fun fact: The Padres ranked 21st in Baseball America’s preseason organizational talent rankings. There’s little reason the higher-ranked Twins, Brewers, Reds, whoever can’t outflank them).

It ultimately comes down to resources and behavior, which is why the same, aggressive teams keep coming up. It’d be a lot more fun – and a more competitive league – if others would join them in the bidding.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Juan Soto trade: Is your team in running? How competition stacks up.