The All-Star break is coming to an end and we will soon get to see how the final 70 games of the 2022 season play out. Hopefully, our Chicago White Sox can maintain some of the momentum gained from their big four-game series win at Minnesota before the break.
As July comes to a close, the August 2 trade deadline approaches. In the next two weeks, teams will decide what their needs are to make a run to the playoffs. Some will be standing pat, while others will look to move veterans for prospects or rid themselves of bloated contracts. It is always an interesting time of year to see who stays and who goes. It tells us a lot about the way those teams view themselves, their chances, and their futures. Many names will circulate in the press as potential targets and for many different reasons.
Reports and Rumors
We’ve heard plenty of rumors already and there are certainly more to come. However, one name became available recently, and it is indeed big a name. The Washington Nationals are actively shopping Juan Soto, who recently turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer to stay in D.C. As a result, the Nationals have put him on the trade block.
Soto is under control through 2024 via arbitration and is one of the premier young talents in MLB. He has two All-Star appearances, a batting title, and two Silver Slugger Awards on his resume. Soto already has two top-five finishes in the MVP voting. He finished second last season to former teammate Bryce Harper. He has yet to fulfill his potential at the age of 23 and many of his best years are ahead of him. Needless to say, the price tag for his services will be steep.
A Lot of ‘Allegedly’
Unconfirmed reports have surfaced that several teams are prepared to make offers to acquire Juan Soto from the Nationals. Those teams are the New York Mets, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago White Sox.
One must take these reports with a grain of salt as a plethora of rumors swirl at the deadline every year. While the player or players in question are usually being shopped, keep in mind the teams rumored to be involved are often false. MLB general managers and agents are often planting these rumors to gain leverage over one another.
It’s easy to roll your eyes when you see the White Sox named in these reports. Fans have been burned many times after getting their hopes up that Rick Hahn and co. will land a marquee player. One has to ask, “Why would this time be any different?”
We have heard Rick Hahn use the phrase “seat at the table” when failing to land high-profile players. It’s a running joke at this point. This time around, the Chicago White Sox organization has some history with Juan Soto.
The White Sox pursued Soto when he was available as an international prospect out of the Dominican Republic during the 2014 signing period. Soto and other prospects, such as Fernando Tatis Jr., played in a Dominican League tournament in Florida. He and other players would eventually sign on July 2, the first day of the signing period. The White Sox believed Soto would sign the $1.4 million signing bonus offer they made. On the last day of the tournament, the Washington Nationals asked for a private hitting session with Soto. They were impressed and offered a $1.5 million signing bonus. The rest is history.
Perhaps that’s ancient history at this point in regards to the White Sox. Chicago does have a good track record with international players, however, and perhaps some goodwill still exists between Soto and the Sox. We can only speculate of course, but the fact that he was once almost a South Sider couldn’t hurt their chances.
However, the problem arises when considering the price tag. There is the obvious monumental cost of signing Soto long-term. He has already declined 15 years and $440 million, making it possible he will be the first half-billion-dollar contract in MLB history. But Soto is under team control for the next two years, which lines up nicely with the White Sox competitive window.
The Price and The Cost
Soto making $17 million this season is paltry in comparison to his production. He is making slightly less than the White Sox paid Dallas Keuchel in 2022. A pay increase via arbitration is on the horizon, but that figure still likely wouldn’t exceed unreasonable heights for Chicago.
The question arises of whether the Sox would be able to work out a contract of any sort. Considering the has already turned down $440 million, it’s laughable to think Jerry Reinsdorf would shell out even more. The White Sox are one of the few teams in MLB that have yet to sign a player to a $100 million contract. So for two years and a few months of control, is it even worth it?
That would all depend on what the Nationals want and what the trade market has to offer. The rumor mill says Washington wants a team’s top four prospects. It would take a lot to be the highest bidder when teams like the Mets and Yankees are involved. They have better prospects and owners with deeper pockets.
The White Sox farm system has been depleted in the last few years due to prospects that have graduated or been traded. They do have a couple of arrows in the quiver in ascending prospects Colson Montgomery and Oscar Colas, but the two alone would not be nearly enough.
An Opportunity and a Problem
However, another report states that the Nationals also want to unload Patrick Corbin’s bloated contract in the trade. Corbin has been abysmal since signing his six-year deal in December of 2018.
The left-handed hurler is owed $60 million over the next two years. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge in making a deal. It lowers the acquisition cost of Juan Soto because Corbin lowers the overall value of the return.
The issue is that his egregious contract would take up a large percentage of the 2023 payroll — a percentage that represents a sunk cost. The White Sox may believe they can turn around someone like Corbin. We’ve seen them fix the career of Lucas Giolito and aid the development of Dylan Cease into one of the best pitchers in the American League. It presents a big risk, but one that could be worth it.
Nevertheless, players from the White Sox big-league roster would have to head to Washington in any deal to make a Juan Soto trade feasible. This is where things get tricky. The Sox would not be able to part ways with a significant chunk of their roster to make a deal that results in a net positive. The pitching staff is barely intact and has questions surrounding Lance Lynn and Michael Kopech going into the second half.
The Sox would have to look into Washington’s perceived value of players like Luis Robert, Andrew Vaughn, and Eloy Jimenez.
What Would It Take?
No player on the Chicago White Sox roster presents more value than Luis Robert. The 24-year-old is a burgeoning young star in the game despite some injury issues. He is under control at a reasonable cost for the next six years.
Corbin being included in the deal lowers the acquisition cost, in my opinion, to the point where a Luis Robert for Juan Soto and Patrick Corbin trade is of equivalent value. This simply doesn’t make a lot of sense for either party.
Robert is an important part of the White Sox core of players and comes from a long line of Cuban players. Trading Robert has the potential of ruining any goodwill built between the White Sox organization and Cuban prospects. Any negative ramifications in the international market by trading Robert would hurt the White Sox in the long term.
The Nationals, allegedly, want four prospects. They, and any other MLB team, would love to have Robert but it appears as though the White Sox would have to include their top two prospects as well. As stated before, it’s a steep price to pay that doesn’t seem feasible.
Andrew Vaughn is another ascending player on the Sox that would be a valuable addition to any ballclub. He has shown consistent development and has come through in clutch moments for the Sox. Vaughn also doesn’t exactly have a position on the team at the moment.
Jose Abreu is still producing at first base and doesn’t appear to be slowing down much. Vaughn does fill in as DH, but he is playing out of position whenever he ventures into left or right field. The aging Yasmani Grandal will likely need some games as a DH, as will Eloy Jimenez, who has shown to be injury prone and a poor outfielder. It’s easy to see Vaughn as the odd man out.
The issue (or at least my issue) is that Vaughn represents the future at first base after Abreu retires. The White Sox have had generational talents man first base at 35th/Shields for decades. Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, and Jose Abreu are franchise legends. So far in his short career, Vuahgn seems to be the heir apparent to carry on the first baseman legacy. The kicker is that Vaughn, Montgomery, and Oscar Colas may still not be enough to complete a deal for Juan Soto.
Other Potential Trade Chips
Again, the White Sox would be bidding against the Mets and Yankees. As a result, the Sox would likely have to include another high-potential player in Garrett Crochet. The lanky lefty, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is expected to be ready for 2023 Spring Training. Crochet has the potential to be a solid starting pitcher or an elite high-leverage reliever.
Eloy Jimenez may be another player to consider in a trade package. Jimenez doesn’t have a ton of value at the moment. The oft-injured 25-year-old hasn’t shown the intriguing power production that his 2019 and 2020 seasons signaled. Nevertheless, there is a ton of potential there as Jimenez could be one of the best sluggers in the game and hit 50 home runs in a season. Eloy would be the centerpiece in a trade that would likely also include Crochet, Montgomery, and Colas.
Another Seat at Another Table
All things considered, we still don’t know how true any of these reports are and exactly what the Washington Nationals want. A trade package that makes sense for both the Chicago White Sox and Nationals is delicate, but the Sox may have the pieces to make it happen.
It is, at the very least, prudent for the front office to be involved in the discussions. The opportunity to acquire a generational talent like Soto in a contention window has to be considered. Parting ways with key pieces currently on the MLB roster might be painful, but the White Sox could potentially boast an outfield that includes Luis Robert and Juan Soto.
There are also questions about whether the Sox can absorb an additional $45 million to the 2023 payroll and if they want to take on the risks involved with Corbin. The Yankees and Mets are in on the bidding, allegedly, and the price will get high as Juan Soto is on the cusp of being a top-five player in MLB.
At the end of the day, Soto likely will not be in a future White Sox lineup. This is all speculation, but when teams from New York or even Los Angeles enter the bidding, the White Sox will not be able to compete. A deal will eventually come to fruition and Soto will head to a contending team that has better assets and more money to offer.
Rest assured though, the Chicago White Sox will have had a seat at the table.
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