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Nationals unlikely to pull off Juan Soto trade before deadline

LOS ANGELES — There’s surprise that the Nationals are now working on trading superstar Juan Soto after originally saying he wasn’t going anywhere. And there’s a healthy dose of skepticism that they can actually pull this off. 

“Not by the deadline,” seems to be a near consensus about the viability of dealing arguably baseball’s greatest hitter and asset. 

One rival exec likened this to a Kevin Durant deal. But there’s a difference. It’s a Durant deal with a deadline. 

Which is why some see the winter as a more likely time to make a trade, when all 30 teams have hope, and teams are more willing to surrender big-league contributors. 

“They said one month ago they were never trading the player,” Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, said. “Now they’re saying they’re considering trading Juan Soto.” 

There certainly will be teams lining up now for Soto, with some early speculation centering on the Padres, Cardinals and Mariners along with the usual big-market suspects (Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Rangers and Giants) as teams that could have a shot based on their prospects, revenues and a history of decent-sized dealmaking. 

Juan Soto
Juan Soto

Perhaps surprisingly, it was hard to find anyone to criticize Soto for turning down an offer that represented a record: $440 million for 15 years. Some in town for the All-Star Game saw the $29.3 million average salary, while certainly not embarrassing, as insufficient for the 23-year-old superstar. 

There’s a belief in the Soto camp that it’s an attempt by Nats ownership to lock up their far-and-away best asset, and enhance their franchise value at a time the team is for sale, and the owners themselves are about to leave the scene. (Nats people maintain the deal represents more dollars than ex-Nat Bryce Harper and some other star players who were actually free agents received; Soto has two plus years to go). 

Soto himself seems nonplussed. He’s been on quite a hot streak since the Nats changed their mind more than a week ago. 

“It’s out of my hands,” Soto said. “I’m just another player on the team.” 

Modesty is yet another tool for Soto, who’d interest any team with the wherewithal, including the Yankees and Mets, who will check in. In the Mets case, it seems like an amazing long shot since it’s hard to imagine the Nats want to see Soto in their division for at least the next 2 ¹/₂ years, and probably a lot longer than that considering owner Steve Cohen’s ability to pay whatever price he needs to. 

Soto would be an especially great fit for Yankee Stadium. The Yankees can afford whatever they want, but one Yankees person mentioned again, in this context, that locking up MVP co-favorite Aaron Judge remains a priority.

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