Exploring a potential Cardinals trade for Juan Soto

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 16: Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals at bat against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on May 16, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 16: Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals at bat against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on May 16, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

With the news that Washington Nationals superstar Juan Soto might be on the trade block, the baseball world is now waiting to see what happens next. Could the St. Louis Cardinals make a trade for the phenom?

The St. Louis Cardinals have proven one thing for certain. They can beat the worst teams in baseball. On Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals pushed aside the hapless Cincinnati Reds for the second straight day. The Cardinals continued dominance over the cellar-dwellers of the National League Central have kept the club in prime playoff position.

Also developing on Saturday was the news that Juan Soto had declined a contract offer from the Washington Nationals, and that the team might be looking to trade their superstar. Could Soto help the Cardinals close the gap against the league’s top teams?

The Cardinals should be in the mix, but let’s accept that it’s going to be costly. First off, the fact that Soto rejected the reported $440 million means he’s likely to get more and probably significantly more money. Also, the acquisition cost is going to be astronomical.

The Cardinals would likely be having to part with top prospect Jordan Walker in any potential Soto trade. Walker is only 20 years of age and putting together a good season in AA.

Juan Soto is only 23 and has already won a World Series title.

Walker is likely going to be a great player. There is every reason to think so. But even in a best-case scenario, will he be as good as Juan Soto? This is absolutely not a critique on Walker. I am just of the mentality that proven MLB talent is always preferred over unproven talent. It’s one thing to be against trading an elite prospect like Walker for a rental, or even a really good player with a few more seasons of control.

But this is Juan Soto, one of the best players in baseball. He’s not that much older than Walker right now and is under contract until 2025. So, even if he didn’t re-sign, Soto gives the Cardinals a huge boost for the 2022 season and the next few seasons as well. Even this season, which has been sluggish for Soto’s standards, he’s accumulated 3.4 WAR.

Soto made his debut at age 19. A long-term deal might not push into his late thirties. His resume is extremely impressive already and he’s not even really in his prime yet, in all likelihood.

Jordan Walker would probably be just the beginning of a trade package. My best guess for a trade offer would be something along the lines of Walker, Matthew Liberatore, an MLB outfielder like Tyler O’Neill or Juan Yepez, and probably a few other pieces. Maybe that gets the two sides close, or maybe not. Either way, it’s easy to see why a trade like this would push the Cardinals towards an uncomfortable place.

Assuming that a trade is worked out, that’s just the first step. Signing Soto long-term is the next one and that seems like a challenge. It’s possible Soto just wants to win and be paid accordingly to his elite production. I don’t see how any deal, whenever he does sign and regardless of who it is with, is less than a decade long and will be somewhere close to $500 million.

Does that sound like a St. Louis Cardinals type move? Of course not. In fact, I almost didn’t write this article because it’s an exercise in futility.

However, the trade deadline is fast approaching and the Soto rumors are bound to take the baseball world by storm. The Cardinals, on paper, make a lot of sense. They don’t have a ton of money tied up in the payroll long-term. They have a great farm system with several blue-chip prospects to offer in trades. They are a contending team with some holes to fill.

There was already a report that the Cardinals had been in trade talks with the Nationals.

The chances of Juan Soto wearing a Cardinals jersey this season, or any season beyond, are somewhere between slim and none. However, the stars are aligned in a way that it’s possible to see how it could happen.

Would the front office throw away their roster building blueprint and trade several top prospects and/or young MLB talent for a single player? Would they offer up the $450-500 million it could take to sign that player? Don’t get your hopes up.

There are only a few players in the sport that could instantly change the trajectory of a franchise  like Juan Soto. He’s already established himself as a superstar, and one that could hit free agency in his mid-20’s. If the Cardinals are willing to trade the talent to get him and pay handsomely for him over the next decade plus, it would propel the St. Louis Cardinals back to the top of the National League.

Then the Cardinals can start piling up wins against top notch teams (which they have struggled against so far this season) and not have to count on those relaxing Pirates and Reds matchups.

Soto has proven he’s a star. He’s proven he can succeed when the lights are brightest. If the Cardinals want to succeed under the bright lights of October, they need to take a swing for Juan Soto.

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