after getting “The Elusive Future!” Cheers from fans in Los Angeles During last week’s All-Star Game, Soto returned to collect his trophy in the Home Run Derby from the Visitors Club as the Nats started a three-game set in California. Although the Dodger audience’s response has been more muted with Soto now on the opposing team in a calculated game, the fact that he was playing against the most ambitious team in baseball while his club received offers of his services still dominated the headlines. And if you look at Monday’s game as a kind of test (as if Soto had anything else to prove), it went through with flying colors. After two failed hits, Soto came in fifth, with runners in corners, two hitters, and his team starting to run. Watch the first two balls pass, one ball and one hit, then hit the Gonsolin spacer in the ground and watch him bounce over the first baseman while still managing to stay fair. The hit jumped to a right-hand corner of the field, forced the Mookie Betts to run a marathon to pick them up, and gave Soto a triple, to which he would add a once and walk before the game was over.
That’s more than we’d expect from Soto, who even at just 23-years-old appears to have mastered every aspect of baseball hitting. Combining unparalleled board discipline and the ability to smash pitches when he decides to swing, Soto once again shows he’s one of the best speed players in the game today even as he continues to age like the average rookie. And now one can’t help but wonder how much potential he could unlock if he found himself in a cut-off lineup of caliber that prevents bowlers from making him by far the most walked player in the MLB.
The most pressing question is something like, “Well, what could citizens even imagine to get in commerce?” And the answers so far have been somewhat unsatisfactory, because Soto’s value is truly unparalleled at present and unprecedented in historical trade talks. Michael Bowman of The Ringer, writing about a possible impending breakup, is trying his best to build a Herschel Walker/Wayne Gretzky-like package that can affect citizens, and even the theoretical return he settles on seems futile:
If I’m managing the national team, this is the kind of package I want: a young star player with several years of team control remaining. Even if this player isn’t as good as Soto, he can still be a franchise player. After that, there should be at least another good prospect who is close to being MLB ready, and a few others.
As much as Juan Soto’s “exchange for worse players” strategy sounds on paper, that’s what usually happens, with desperate and misguided franchises buying up prospects at the expense of what they already have. Chris Sale wins the Red Sox World Championship while Yoán Moncada and Michael Kopech keep the White Sox in the middle. Miguel Cabrera produces a decade of greatness for tigers as men like Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin fail to save the Marilyn family from hiding their identity. What makes it worse is that Soto is still incredibly young, and has been under the Nationals for at least two and a half years, so if the team really wants it he can still easily be the centerpiece of a revamped candidate in 2024. Is that a bit of wishful thinking? ? surely. But is this any less realistic than believing that some inferior pioneer and some magic beans are a fair alternative to Juan Soto?
The desire of the citizens, and specifically acting team owner Mark Lerner, to be willing to give up Soto at all is a tragedy of greed and complacency. The man for whom money had always been an abstract concept seemed to have preemptively decided, years ago, that he would never again seriously engage in a free-market competition for the services of another of the most talented and beloved people on his team. players, because that would make it difficult for him to sell the team and buy… what are you even buying for $2 billion?
The Nationals already looked like a lost cause, with a lot of their key pieces from the 2019 World Championships gone or in decline. But there’s something particularly sad about the way each game plays in uniform, no matter how many of them survive, it’s become more about the rest of the league than Washington itself. Starting with this Dodgers series, when he does something great, the “that’s good for the nats and their fans” reaction is no longer a hit. He’s now “I wonder how that plays into his impending departure to a better performing team.” Soto is still technically a native. But for all intents and purposes, he stopped being one once the owner decided that Soto was expendable.