Without getting too deeply into the whole Geovany-Soto-is-done-just-start-Steve-Clevenger thing (my official position is it’s still way too early to think about benching Soto, and while I like what I’ve seen from Clevenger, it’s also way too early to anoint him a .500 hitter), it’s always been possible that Soto would be dealt at some point this season. He’s 29, on a modest contract (he makes $4.3 million this year before his final arbitration year in 2013), is on a team that probably isn’t going to win this year, and he’s backed up by a just-turned-26-year-old who might eventually be able to take his job. And that’s not even mentioning Welington Castillo, who also could be a big league regular.
Tampa Bay has been looking for a catcher for some time now, and local rumors have Soto as one of the trade possibilities for the Rays. Soto’s been off to a terrible start this year, though he’s started hitting the ball with authority lately (he hit one yesterday off of Aroldis Chapman that was as struck as well as any ball I’ve seen anyone hit all year – but a combination of the wind and a well-positioned left fielder turned it into a line-out/fly-out), and it’s been a whopping 46 plate appearances.
It’s easy for us to forget just how good he was in 2008 and 2010, and even last year in a “bad” year, Soto still managed a 97 OPS+. He was also worth 2.4 WAR in just 125 games. If he does that again this year, he’d offer millions in surplus value.
Together with AJ Pierzynski and Kurt Suzuki, Soto is probably one of the best three catchers expected to be available this Summer. But, with the White Sox surprisingly competitive, they may be unwilling to move Pierzynski, and the A’s have toyed around with the idea of signing Suzuki to an extension (he’s currently, like Soto, under team control through 2013). And, even with all of Soto’s struggles, he’s still the far superior offensive player – Suzuki hasn’t topped a 90 OPS+ since 2009 (and is at just 89 for his career), and though Pierzynski equalled Soto’s 97 last year, he was at just 84, 93, 88, 83 in the previous four years.
In other words: Geovany Soto has trade value – perhaps more than any other available catcher – and shouldn’t be dumped for nothing.
What would he net? No one can tell you for sure, but you’ve got to believe the Cubs would prefer to pick up a quality pitching prospect or two (something the Rays always have in spades).