Are the Mariners in the right spot to pursue a Juan Soto trade?

Jul 19, 2022, 11:00 AM
Mariners Nationals Juan Soto...
Juan Soto bats during the MLB Home Run Derby on Monday in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

On Monday night, Mariners phenom Julio Rodríguez found himself matched up against Washington Nationals superstar Juan Soto in the finals of the MLB Home Run Derby. Could they be matched up with each other soon, though?

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The status of Soto is the talk of baseball right now, as the 23-year-old right fielder (who beat Rodríguez for the derby championship, by the way) turned down a massive extension from the Nationals worth $440 million, leading to speculation that he could be traded before the Aug. 2 MLB trade deadline.

And you know which roster Soto would look pretty good on right about now? The one whose 14 straight wins is a big league record for a team at the All-Star break, the Seattle Mariners.

With Seattle surging at 51-42 overall after going 22-3 from June 21 into the break, the team looks like it has settled on the core that general manager/president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has been cultivating since beginning a rebuild after the 2018 season. The Mariners have plenty of prospects and young players, too, which could help them put together the kind of eye-popping package it would take to acquire Soto, who is under team control through the 2024 season.

But would that kind of deal ultimately make sense for Seattle? Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports shared her thoughts Monday on The Mike Salk Show, and while her instinct was one thing, she’s settled on a different answer.

Asked host Mike Salk: “Do you think there’s any sort of a shot that they would try for Soto? And if so, should they?”

Responded Drayer: “You know, I’ve been going back and forth on this ‘should they?’ here, and there seems to be a lot of thought that they would at least explore it and take a look at it. And I have fallen into the category – I started ‘no,’ and that is my absolute kind of instinct. ‘Of course it’s too much – it’s the farm, what could this do?’ But then I look at where they’re at right now and why you are building the farm and why you took a step back with the payrolls the last few years, and I think I think you’ve gotta go for it.”

Drayer went on to explain that in a bidding war for a player like Soto, “there’s no guarantee” the Mariners could ultimately pull off the trade, but when it comes to players worth selling the farm for (so to speak), Soto is it. And that’s even with the knowledge that Soto is likely to test free agency when he reaches that point after the 2024 season.

“I think that is the type of player that you are looking for,” she said. “The part that hurts – it’s only for two years, but it would be for three playoff runs because it would be (the end of this season), too. I don’t think you’re going to be able to trade for him and then sign him (to an extension). I’m fairly certain (Soto and his agent Scott Boras) will be wanting to hit the free agent market, but that gives you three shots at really building things.”

What about the cost in young players that it would take to get Soto? Drayer points to the Mariners’ payroll, which ranks 22nd in MLB this year according to Spotrac.

“Anything that you might give up, well, isn’t that kind of what the dollars are for at that point?” she said, meaning Seattle would still be able to plug holes with proven players through free agency and trades. “Your team, your club is so much more complete right now at the big league level. So if they did that, whereas a year ago I would have thought they were out of their minds, I would understand that this year, and probably appreciate it as well.”

If the Mariners make a serious run at a trade for Soto in the next few weeks, though, where is the line drawn on the haul that would be sent to D.C. – especially considering the chemistry of the Mariners on their incredible hot streak of the last month?

“I don’t think you’re giving up anything from the current big league roster,” Drayer said. “Then I think you’re hurting yourself both for now and for the future. But anything outside of that, anything in the farm system is untouchable, and taking on any kind of contract (from Washington) is untouchable. And my other point is that if you have to replace somebody, then money shouldn’t be too much of an object… when you go out in the next offseason and have to replace something that wouldn’t be coming up in the farm (after a trade for Soto).”

Listen to the full discussion between Drayer and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

More from Shannon Drayer: How the M’s went from the brink to MLB’s hottest team

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Are the Mariners in the right spot to pursue a Juan Soto trade?