Home Run Derby Champion. World Series Champion. Future Hall of Famer? That’s the trajectory for 23-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto. After turning down a 15-year, $440 million contract this week, Soto is on the trade block. That’s where the Cubs come in… along with every other major league team. Acquiring Soto will require the largest trade package of all time. Period. Monday’s Home Run Derby was just one example of what Washingtonians have witnessed over the past five years. The rest, well, that’s Hall of Fame worthy…
Hall Of Fame Resume
Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Mel Ott, and Juan Soto. Those are the only players to have 100 home runs, 300 RBIs, 400 walks, and 500 hits before turning 23. Oh, and Soto is the only player to do it since 1950.
Want a more recent comparison? How about another Hall of Famer: Ken Griffey Jr. In the ’90s, “The Kid,” was arguably the best player in baseball and, like Soto, stacked up statistically with the all-time greats. But here’s the thing: Soto has been better than Griffey Jr. to start his career. Through their first 555 games, Soto has more home runs (118 vs. 87), RBIs (355 vs. 344), walks (452 vs. 222), runs (394 vs. 311), and a higher on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS than Griffey Jr did through their first 4+ seasons.
Soto drew 144 walks last year at 22 years old. Another guy to walk that often at such a young age, Red Sox great Ted Wiliams, walked 147 times in 1941, also at 22 years old. Williams happened to hit .406 that year, the last major league player to hit above .400. So yeah, a Soto deal is going to cost a lot.
Let the bidding war begin! A player on Soto’s trajectory has never been traded in modern baseball history. The team will have to deal several, major league-ready players, along with its top prospects. Here’s what the Cubs could offer the Nationals:
Pete Crow-Armstrong, Outfielder, #3 Prospect
This year’s fastest riser in the Cubs organization is outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, acquired in last year’s deadline deal that sent Javy Baez to the Mets. The 2020 1st round pick missed almost all last season recovering from shoulder surgery. The lefty-hitting Crow-Armstrong has wasted no time this year, showing the power (11 home runs) and speed (19 stolen bases) that made him a top-20 pick. Here he is doubling at the Futures Game this week:
.@Cubs prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong doubles in the Futures Game!
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) July 17, 2022
Crow-Armstrong is already a major league-ready defender. He likely needs another year in the minors before his major league debut, but Crow-Armstrong has the tools to be a big league centerfielder.
Jordan Wicks, Starting Pitcher, #7 Prospect
The Cubs’ 2021 1st round pick out of Kansas State, the 6’3″ lefty set school records for single-season and career strikeouts. Boasting the best change-up in the 2021 draft class, Wicks projects as a starter, given his advanced command and control. The 22-year-old is already at AA Tenessee, and some experts believe he’ll be ready for the big show by next year.
Major League Talent
Keegan Thompson OR Justin Steele
One of the best storylines of the Cubs’ 2022 season has been the consistency and emergence of Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele. Both are having breakthrough years as full-time starting pitchers for the north siders. Most importantly, they’re on rookie deals under team control for several more seasons. That’s the draft capital needed to facilitate a deal for Soto. But here’s the catch. The Nats can only have one of them. Take your pick – the lefty Steele or the righty Thompson – in the deal.
Rookie Christopher Morel has burst onto the scene for the Cubs this year. The versatile outfielder/2nd baseman has shown a mix of power (9 home runs), speed (8 stolen bases), clutch play, and raw emotion that the Cubs desperately need.
Christopher Morel homered in his first Major League at bat
The bat flip. The reactions. Baseball is so special pic.twitter.com/jxYDHdRHgZ
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) May 18, 2022
The Cubs’ 2018 1st-round pick, Hoerner, is putting it all together this year after injuries cost him parts of the last two seasons. He’s hitting .307 and has already set career highs in home runs, doubles, triples, hits, and stolen bases — while playing stellar defense at short. Hoerner is plug-and-play for the Nats in this deal.
Contreras Is The Icing On The Cake
Willson Contreras is the starting catcher in the National League All-Star game and having his best year as a pro. But unless he’s willing to take a team-friendly deal, the Cubs will likely move him ahead of the trade deadline, just as they did with World Series winners Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez last year. Contreras gives the Nationals an All-Star in return that they can try to re-sign or flip for more assets.
Six Cubs For Juan Soto
Willson Contreras, Nico Hoerner, Christopher Morel, Steele/Thompson, Jordan Wicks, and Pete Crow-Armstrong for 23-year-old Juan Soto. Image an outfield of Soto, Seiya Suzuki, and Brennan Davis in 2023. Not too shabby. Several of the Cubs’ other top prospects are infielders, negating the loss of Hoerner/Morel. The most significant loss would be Contreras, but the writing is already on the wall for him.
The Cubs would then have 2+ seasons to sign Soto to a record-breaking contract, likely in the arena of $500 million. Is Soto worth the price? That’s the ultimate question. But ask the Yankees if they regret trading for a young outfielder named George Herman Ruth? That comparison might be a stretch, but surrounded by Mantle, Williams, and Griffey Jr. in the record books to begin his career, acquiring Juan Soto is worth it.