Nationals Baseball: Soto deal analyzed - the return

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Soto deal analyzed - the return

Time is such that we can only go forward. There is no going back*. Soto is a Padre and a bunch of youngsters, yes players younger than Soto - all of them!, are now Nationals. Well, they are in the Nationals system at least. This is done. We now need to ask the question - who are these guys? How good are they? And how does that paint this deal? 

Mackenzie Gore 

This guy has always been thought of highly and that's made him a Top 30 prospect his entire career.  He was drafted third and proceeded to do, well, let's be honest, not all that much if you look at the results. He was great in rookie ball, but it was for all of 21 innings in 2017. In 2019 he had his best showing dominating A+ ball as a 20 year old. But other than those moments? He's been moving up while doing just ok. It's still impressive as he's been young for these levels, but that dominant guy hasn't really shown up for more than brief periods of time.

One of those times was early this year in his major league debut. About a third way into the season he was sporting a 1.50 ERA (2.20 FIP) but he slowly got worse and now he's out with an elbow injury.  I know, that doesn't sound good, but the Nats assure us he's ok and can take it easy with him. That worked wonders for Strasburg I think. Someone find him and ask him because I don't see him on a mound.

To spell it out more bluntly, it hasn't been about results with Gore it's been about promise and the guy has that in spades. He has three plus pitches in a fastball, slider, and curve. It's swing and miss stuff and his stuff is difficult to make good contact with meaning both homers and hits are hard to come by.  He can be a little wild but you take that given everything else. Simply put he's got number one starter talent, it's held up under the rise through the minors, and that's not something you can say about a lot of guys.

CJ Abrams

This guy is fast and can hit. And unlike every other guy here he does have results. He hit in rookie ball. He hit in AA. He hit in AAA.  Sound great, what's the catch? 

Well he doesn't walk and his power is not there... yet.  That's the key. He can be a good player now, slapping and running and providing a spark if not getting on base as much as he should. But if he develops power, even a little, he could elevate to a very good player - every gap hit a double or triple. Maybe a few homers? He is said to hit the ball hard so the thought is it should come. Should. 

How's his fielding? Eh. He's fast! He's another Nat now who they will try to get to play SS who really should not. Cornered the market on those, didn't the Nats. 

Robert Hassell

He's a hitter. Average, patience, power. He's also pretty fast. He has exceeded expectations and might be able to hang in CF. If not he should be a very good corner OF. It's hard to find a flaw in his prodcution so far. 

Why, with all this, isn't he higher up the prospect list then? Well it's all good, very good in fact, but there isn't a blow you away talent here. It's a good average, good patience, good power, good fielding. Nothing individually to get excited about. He's young for his level but not crazy young (21 in a few days). He hasn't done anything in the high minors yet. Everything says - a no-red flag good ballplayer, but when you are looking at prospects for greatness, you don't quite see it here.

James Wood

A beast. 6'7" with tons of power and solid other skills you can squint and see Aaron Judge here. Unlike Hassell that power is a WOW skill, and he's probably faster too, if not as polished in the field and might have a better eye. In other words, he could be a better prospect than Hassell. But similar to Hassell he isn't that young for his league (20 in September) and his league is low.  His patience is interesting but he also has had K numbers that give you greater pause. That's probably the big reason there's still a question mark hanging over him. He did adjust in low A, so he passed that test, but can he keep this up in High A? Double A? Or will the pitchers begin to eat him alive?  He's the type that could make a BIG jump in prospect lists if he can keep up that drop in K-rate. 

Jarlin Susuna 

A true lottery ticket. He was the best international pitcher but in a year light in international pitching. He's looked good but it's rookie ball and under 30 innings. Basically he'll move up to A ball and we'll see if he's something special on the fast track, some one that looks good but on a traditional path, or if he needs work. Rookie ball just weeds out the big problems.

If this sounds good to you it is! You have three guys I feel pretty confident will be contributing major leaguers and two guys who could really blossom into something special.  There's no trash in these prospects, no throw-ins. Any org would want to have each of these guys.

Why the long face then? Well you know my stance. I want a guy with the best chance of being a star or a couple of guys for the rotation. Perhaps I didn't explain why but it's because that's what costs you money. Stars and non-replaceable pitchers. By getting those guys in place and cheap you can use your money to fill around them. This deal doesn't give the Nats the best chance of getting either of those things.

PLUS the Nats aren't just making a trade - they are are trading a 23 year old with Hall of Fame hitting skills with 2+ years left on his contract.

PLUS PLUS - you also traded away a find in your not old slugging first baseman. 

Trading Soto right now, mid-prime for three playoff runs, should get you EXACTLY what you need for the best chance at a rebuild. A good odds bet on a high payout. Adding Bell should just cement that. Instead the Nats got an approximation. Bets with good odds but lower payouts, best with higher payouts but longer odds. It's a good mix, but a mix I'd expect for only Soto and maybe after this year. 

It would be near impossible to get a good trade for Soto on face value, but even adjusting for the circumstances I still can't call it a good trade. It's an acceptable one. Now Nats fans hope the team catches the breaks and ends up with some mix of Kershaw, Altuve, Holliday, Judge, and Sale and not Daniel Norris, Jose Peraza, Austin Hays, and two guys that never make it.

*Well this is a big generalization. If you want a little mind blowing this book really explains "time" is likely how we view a set of characteristics that to our perception only go in one direction, mainly entropy, and doesn't exist like we act like it does. But that's probably a little above Soto trade talk.


Anonymous said...

So if we set aside the question of extending him, which is obviously tied to his youth and the near certainty that Soto is looking at an extended HOF-caliber prime over the next 10+ seasons, why do folks think that we should get much more in a trade for 2.4 seasons of a 23 year old MVP candidate than 2.4 seasons of a 30 year old MVP candidate?

It would be one thing if we're talking a 35 year old, where they might fall off a cliff without warning, but the biggest added value that I can see youth adding here is that you get a couple years of exclusive negotiating rights to possibly secure a discount on an extension.

But obviously with Soto seeking a market value extension, there's a cap on how valuable that is. Like, if the Padres could auction off that right to the highest bidder, what could they get the Dodgers or whoever to pay? $5 million?

I think a lot of the negative feelings around this trade (including mine) have to do with the decision to trade him at all.

This trade is fine, even good, once a trade became a certainty. But we didn't want to trade him. We wanted to have Soto's whole career an iconic part of Nationals' history. And that's what we're mourning. Not whether we could have pried a better pitching prospect than Gore from someone.

elchupinazo said...

The truth is that a team with a bunch of, like, Adam Duvalls is going to win more baseball games than a lousy team with one Juan Soto on it. Pitching of course is another issue but Juan Soto wasn't going to help the nats win in the next few years any more than Mike Trout has helped the Angels win his entire career.

People also seem to be forgetting that he's almost certain to go all the way to FA. The Padres have full control of him now. While Preller has shown that he's willing to spend to win, they a) already have Tatis and Machado on huge contracts, and b) probably need some pitching help if they want to really contend in that division for the next couple years. He probably *could* give Soto what it would take to lock him up but even spendy owners get nervous when the numbers start to add up.

So if these and other nats prospects pan out, Soto will hit the market just as the team is (hopefully) becoming competitive again. Corbin's contract will be gone and Strasburg's will only have two years left. New ownership will almost certainly be in place. Soto will be the best bat available, and the team will have little salary on the books so it's not CRAZY to think that new owners might be able to win the sweepstakes for him.

It will be competitive. All the usual suspects will be in the mix. But it's not impossible if new owners really want to kick off another window of contention.

SM said...

@Anonymous 9:06
"... why do folks think that we should get much more in a trade for 2.4 seasons of a 23 year old MVP candidate than 2.4 seasons of a 30 year old MVP candidate?"

Are you seriously suggesting there's no difference?

Time--TIME!--for me to read Roselli's book, I think.

SM said...

Carlo Rovelli.
(Johnny Roselli was a mobster whose body was found sealed in an oil drum, floating off Miami's shore. See how this trade discombobulates the mind?)

Nattydread said...

Rizzo faced two facts. One: The Boras camp is taking Soto to full cash-it-in free agency. Two: There is nothing in the Nats pipeline. NOTHING.

If it was frustrating for us fans to watch an unprotected Soto collect BBs at a historical rate, imagine how difficult it must have been for the Man. Rizzo did his career a favor by trading him.

With the recent drafts, the five new players on the books will make any free agency signings far more valuable. A return of Trea Turner at SS would not surprise --- he could be that Jason Werth signing that re-ignites a run.

I'm sooo tired of the Nats retread retirees. Scrappy new blood that is developing beats fading embers any day.

Steven Grossman said...

Heard about 3 minutes of a call-in show where the host was doing a "you don't ever trade away Mickey Mantle" and all sorts of legendary names. All of that is absurd--you cannot compare pre-free agency with the free agency era. Mickey didn't have the choice--he could sit out or accept what the Yankees would pay. If the world still worked that way, most of the talent that has left that Nats would still be here.

Since the Nats, as currently constituted, could not be competitive with Juan, then the logical course is to do this 1 for 6 trade. Presuming we do not re-sign Soto, in 2025, these 6 (even Voit) may be contributing to the Nats, Soto would not.

Chas R said...

This is exactly what I've been talking about- Soto was almost certainly gone in 2 years. He was never going to help the Nats win anything more than in 2019. The Nat need to fill a lot of holes. They could (and did) leverage Soto to do that. I like this trade and I feel it gets the Nats in playoff contention again sooner rather than later. Yes, there is still work to do and the new owners will need to spend big bucks on some Free Agents likely including some expensive Starting Pitching. But hey, we got a couple of potential No. 1 or No. 2 starters, three position players that are credible future solid MLB with legitimate All-Star upside. This is a good start if it things works out. IMO the Nats likely did well here and it's what they needed to do.

Chas R said...

Oh... and thanks again for excellent analysis and insight Harper! I always love your stuff.

The Ghost of Ole Cole Henry (JDBrew) said...

Here’s a take a friend of mine said to me. If the Padres do NOT win a World Series in the next 2.5 years, this trade will be a HUGE bust for them and should be treated as one of the worst trade decisions in recent memory.

And the crazy thing is, I can’t find a way to disagree. They just tied quite of bit of franchise building capital into Soto winning them a ring. If they don’t win before he hits free agency, then they completely sold a minimum of 5 years work for absolutely NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

Or . . . they jam the joint every night, merchandise and broadcasting money comes pouring in, they sign Soto to an extension and the Padres win three championships in the next 10 years. How about that?

Anonymous said...

Harper - I started reading your posts in 2012 and it’s been a ride (up and now down). I hope we have another ride up and this decade, the ownership change and what’s to come looks nothing like what the 80s through ‘92, Kent Cooke to Snyder and the aftermath has meant to Washington football fans.

It’s going to be a long road back to sustained success.

I assume, best case, we’re looking at a 2008-2012 like period here?

Anonymous said...

I’m trying to delude myself into this too, but still think he’ll end up a Dodger. Please keep passing the hopium though.

Anonymous said...

I think it’s a smart trade on their part—echoing Harper’s point that they basically gave up what you might expect Soto to go for next season, though prospect values have gone waaaay too high although Gore and Abrams’ limited majors experience probably drove up their value a bit more (although I would argue it should lower their value—Abrams scrapping, Gore out with UGH an elbow injury). Where it becomes a little more egregious to me is that Bell, who really could’ve been an All-Star this year and seems like an all-around great guy to have in the locker room, felt like a throw-in to get the 18 y/o pitcher and the Nats are taking back a (minor) salary dump in Voit. You’d expect three years of Soto, a half year of Bell, taking on a subpar 1B and the injury risk with Gore to get San Diego to throw in their #2 prospect as well, or at least a couple more guys further down the rankings.

I can’t tell if it’s market inflation or if Rizzo’s the guy at the table with the least amount of chips, forced to play the first decent hand he gets due to the Lerners, but this and the Scherzer-Turner trade last year have felt different than his past trades, when he clearly got what the Nats wanted. Gray and Ruiz are both major league players with clearer flaws (giving up homers, not hitting homers) than guys Rizzo’s traded for in the past.

Not to mention the obvious emotional gut punch of it all. I lived through the 2005 (fun mediocrity) 2006 (terrible team, but SORIANO!), 2007-2010 (Smiley Gonzalez, Jim Bowden on a segway, Zimmerman being the only player worth watching) eras. It took a lot to build the Nats up to where they were, keeping Soto as a cornerstone would’ve made it feel like they could come back faster than the last rebuild, which basically took six to seven years.

I guess here’s hoping for a new owner with deep pockets and a competitive spirit, a 2025 rotation of Cavalli-Gore-Henry-Gray-Rutledge, a 2025 lineup of these new Pads guys plus House and Green (maybe Kieboom will figure his shit out by then, haha) and a real chance at re-signing Soto to win more rings and make him the second Nat in the HoF (after Scherzer).

Anderiffick said...

I write this as a Nat's Fan living in Philadelphia.
I have heard nothing on the radio about Bryce's contract but complaints.
(The TJ contract adds to this)
I imagine they will say the same in whatever city Soto signs his 20 year contract in soon enough...

The Ghost of Ole Cole Henry (JDBrew) said...

@Anon7:30-theres no way Soto increases the Padres ticket sales or their broadcasting revenue. They already pack the park full on a nightly basis and broadcast revenue doesn’t work that way. Soto is going to free agency, I think so anyway. If that’s the case the Padres could have signed him anyway without the loss of prospects. My point being that the Padres traded all of those prospects to win right now. If they do NOT win right now, they traded everything for nothing. I know all deadline deals involve trading parts of your future. But the Padres fairly cleaned themselves out. They have a couple of guys left. But not much. Their farm looks at this point very similar to the Nats farm pre-deadline. So if the Padres do not win in the next 2.4 years, their future is leveraged very hard for relatively little return.

Anonymous said...

Best footnote in harper history

cass said...

Congratulations on still going strong after 17 years, Harper! Thought to check in to see if this place was still around and if so, what your take on the trade was. Great subtitle for the blog!

Hopefully some of these prospects will develop into quality major leaguers like Rick Short or Nyjer Morgan. Wait, Rick Short became an MLB hitting coach for the Diamondbacks? Amazing!

Ole PBN said...

It’s pretty telling that in all the articles/blogs/commentary/radio I’ve read and heard about what the Nats could look like in 2025, there is one name that has yet to be mentioned: Stephen Strasburg.

Not like players get hurt intentionally, but I’m of the opinion that he’s a big reason we weren’t competitive in 2021, were forced to sell Max and Trea at the deadline, which puts us in a rebuild for 2022, and in no position to retain Soto. Corbin is the rest of the problem. Why the Nats are in this position to trade away a guy like Soto and starting the hype train of 2025 and PROSPECTS! is because Rizzo devoted 30-40% of their payroll to the worst pitcher in MLB and a guy who never plays. Corbin is dreadful, playing well below replacement level. Strasburg’s a sense forces Davey to trot out sub-replacement level SPs every fifth day (and because our farm sucks, those replacements are worse than they should be). Two guys, actively and passively contributing to this team losing.

This can’t be said enough. Those signings (especially Strasburg’s extension) was a massive mistake.

Anonymous said...

Corbin’s signing was definitely not a mistake, in my opinion. No Corbin, no World Series. I think he might have signed with the Phillies but the Nats offered him a sixth year. And Harper had a hypothesis that the long, intense season of 2019 is a major cause for the drop in Corbin’s performance.

The Stras re-resign did not work at all so far; no doubt about it. But fans weren’t livid when he was brought back. Sure, the money was high, but few envisioned this. It seemed like he might settle into an ace pitcher who doesn’t need to throw upper 90s to get guys out. And no way the Nats were going to let both Stras and Rendon walk right after winning the World Series. Rendon has obviously contributed more post-WS, but that signing has not worked out for the Angels so far.

Donald said...

The Nats weren't going to contend in 2023 and 2024 with or without Soto. This trade will make them a better team in 2025 than had they held onto Soto for the next two years. If they end up signing Soto as a FA, this will have been a masterful move on Rizzo's part. I don't think Soto would have taken a market value extension, not that the Nat's offered. But if the only way to get Soto on a long-term contract was to pay crazy money, why not get all these prospects now and wait to throw the crazy money at him in 2 years when Corbin's salary is off the books.

G Cracka X said...

What makes the Soto situation hard to evaluate is: without a counteroffer, we don’t know how much Soto wanted in order to sign an extension. Would a top 5 AAV and largest total dollars be enough? Or he is of the opinion that, with the Nats’ (pre-trade) farm and ownership uncertainty indicating that the team would be bad for years, it would have taken more than that?

At some point, as Rizzo, you have to say: we don’t need him here for the next 2.5 years. And if he’s a Boras client, and not willing to counteroffer on an extension, then he’ll probably be a free agent in 2.5 years and we can just bid on him then if it makes sense for us

Steven Grossman said...

Based on the last 3 games, I have a theory and would welcome feedback. The question: is a team full of hungry players at varying levels of success and experience capable of better results (at least marginally) than a team that has a couple of stars but sees itself as a hopelessly bad team? The win on Monday can rightfully feel like a fluke, but then five runs in the 9th on Tuesday night and four runs in the loss on Thursday....suggest that maybe the answer is yes. Spread out the number of player contributing; get some esprit that matters playing the game every night...and then who knows?

Regardless, but especially if this is true...we need the immediate replacement of Anibel Sanchez and Paolo Espino, who are old and tired. Maybe by next week (or whenever the service time manipulation permits), we should start seeing some young pitchers, hungry for their first big league promotion. Maybe this whole situation can turn out to be fun????

Anagramsci said...

Now that Corbin seems a lock for 20 losses, we need to start thinking about other feats he might accomplish! Can he catch Deshaies?
1 Les Sweetland 7.71
2 Jim Deshaies 7.39
3 Jack Knott 7.29
4 Jose Lima 6.99
5 LaTroy Hawkins 6.66
6 Jose Lima 6.65
7 Greg Harris 6.65
8 Darryl Kile 6.61
9 Chubby Dean 6.61
10 Nels Potter 6.60