When beset on all sides by the ghoulish specter of Juan Soto in a St. Louis Cardinals jersey for the next decade, I’ll take any scraps I can get that suggest my nightmare will not come to pass.
At last check, there were at least some anonymous executives who believed that the Cardinals were the frontrunners in the Soto sweepstakes. But they are not the only anonymous executives chiming in!
Over at MLB.com, Mark Feinsand polled 17 MLB execs about the Soto situation, and that group had a much different take. Nearly half viewed the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers as among the favorites to land Soto. Each exec could pick up to three teams as the favorite, and no team besides those two received more than three votes – and that group was huge, including not only the Cardinals, but also the Mariners, Mets, Rays, and Yankees. The Giants got two votes. The Blue Jays, Brewers, Rangers, Red Sox, and – yes – the Cubs all got one vote.
To put it another way, just three of 17 execs thought the Cardinals were definitely among the top three favorites for Soto. Not exactly a lot of confidence there. I’m encouraged!
On the flip side, the fact that there was so little consensus overall – I mean, fewer than half even had the Padres among their top three, and that was the MOST votes – suggests this is still a huge mystery to the baseball world.
That, in turn, is probably a huge reasons we’ve seen such a slow trade market in the week after the draft. So many teams are held up by the Soto decision, directly, or by the expected related fallout. No team that has ANY shot at Soto is going to pull the trigger on another deal of import until they know for sure they’re not getting Soto. And then if you’re a separate team that is waiting on that first team to decide on some other deal, you are also held up, even if you weren’t involved at all on Soto. So on. So forth. You get the idea.
OK, so when will the market get clarity on Soto? Soon, right? Ehhh … only eight of the 17 polled execs even predicted that Soto would be traded at all. It’s possible this thing lasts right up to the deadline, in which case other teams will either just have to suck it up and jump earlier on some other move than they want to, or will have to have frantic phone calls of alternative routes in the final hour on Tuesday.
For my part, since I do not expect the Cubs to be in on Soto right now – right or wrong, I think the “buyers” of the market will value his 2.5 years of control so much higher than the Cubs would value just two years – I am hoping beyond hope that Soto isn’t traded by this deadline. Then, there’s at least a tiny chance that the Cubs could be more seriously involved come November. There’s also the side benefit of slightly raising the value of the pieces the Cubs are trading this deadline, since no buyer lands Soto.
Reading the MLB.com piece, you get the sense that the executives are all still really in the dark about what’s going to happen. Clearly, this has been an exceedingly secretive process, which is kinda shocking given the number of people who would necessarily have to be involved.
Moreover, the vibe that he might not get traded at all this deadline definitely permeates the polling and the quotes in the piece. Sure, it’s just 17 anonymous execs who clearly don’t have a lot of inside dish, but they know more about the market machinations than we do. Maybe Soto really isn’t going to be traded? Which, by the way, WOULD have been our default assumption just two weeks ago! Because obviously!
(As an aside, since we’re talking about Soto and various favorites: if the Padres are going to land Soto, many will expect to see them, in conjunction with that trade, trying to bring in a third team to absorb a contract they want to dump (i.e., the Eric Hosmer prospect trade). The tricky thing there: we have long wanted to see the Cubs take on Hosmer so they could “buy” a top prospect from the Padres, but if the Padres are acquiring Soto, that’s gonna cost them just about every “top” prospect they have. I wonder if acquiring Soto will be its own special thing, and ownership will decide THIS is the ONE reason they would be willing to go over the luxury tax in consecutive years.
In other words, I would not assume that just because the Padres land Soto that they have to dump money elsewhere. I would obviously love them to have to! But I’m not so sure Soto isn’t just this singular opportunity that throws everything else to the wind.)