Juan Soto is Untradeable

Trades

Players

With the August 2nd trade deadline just over a month away, there are plenty of interesting players who might be changing teams. Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo lead the starting pitching market. The Oakland A’s could also move Sean Murphy or Ramon Laureano, each with multiple years of team control remaining. The Chicago Cubs, with Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, David Robertson and more, could really make some noise. David Bednar would be a massive bullpen addition for any contender.

But even with all those exciting names available and many more soon to be on the block, a certain segment of MLB fans and media can’t stop talking about one player: Juan Soto.

The buzz has died down a bit. But it once got to the point where Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo had to publicly shoot down the rumors – on June 1, a full two months ahead of the deadline.

At first glance, it’s easy to see why rival fans (and executives) would be clamoring over the possibility of a Soto trade. At 26-48, the Nationals, well, stink. According to our model, their farm system is the sixth weakest in baseball. Theoretically, the prospect haul they would receive in a Soto deal could revitalize that farm and jumpstart their rebuild.

Their financial situation is also concerning. Soto is under team control through 2024, but figures to earn record arbitration figures in each of the next two years. The team will pay starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin a combined $60 million in 2023 and $70 million in 2024, and are then on the hook for two additional seasons of Strasburg at $35 million apiece. And that’s not to mention Max Scherzer’s deferred money! It’s no wonder ownership is reportedly considering a sale, yet another variable which only further complicates the franchise’s future.

And on top of it all, Soto is in the midst of the worst season of his young career. He’s slashing .214/.363/.433, and while his batted ball data is much more encouraging and that line is still good for a 124 wRC+, it’s still a far cry from his Ted Williams-esque 151 career mark.

Despite his struggles, Soto’s median trade value stands at a whopping $190.9M. That might seem like a great sign, a number to salivate at while dreaming of the size of a potential return. But it’s actually the number that makes Juan Soto untradeable.

No team can reasonably afford that price tag. In fact, that number outpaces 14 entire farm system totals. Nearly half of the teams in Major League Baseball could send their entire farm system to Washington and still not be able to meet that price.

Of the remaining 15 teams, a few can drop right off the board. Selling the farm for two and a half years of Soto wouldn’t make any real sense for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins or Colorado Rockies.

We’re down to 10. But the Nationals aren’t about to trade Soto and is $190.9M value for 19 prospects worth $10M each; that isn’t realistic, nor would a quantity-over-quality return to that extreme make any kind of sense for Washington. Even if, say, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded their top six prospects for Soto – the most our simulator will allow – they only come to $139.3M.

In prospects alone, the only team that could even come close would be the Boston Red Sox. But it would cost them their top six prospects – Marcelo Mayer ($55.4M), Triston Casas ($48.8M), Nick Yorke ($37.7M), Brayan Bello ($23.5M), Blaze Jordan ($7.6M) and Wikelman Gonzalez ($6.6M) – just to reach $179.6M. And the Red Sox have their own future concerns, with Chris Sale and Trevor Story signed to lengthy contracts and Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, Rafael Devers and Nate Eovaldi each set to hit free agency within the next two years.

But that’s just prospects. What if we put some valuable young big leaguers on the table as well? The Nationals would likely only want to target players with at least four full seasons of team control remaining after 2022. A budding ace like Alek Manoah ($102.0M) or a rookie phenom like Julio Rodriguez ($93.6M) would get their team a good chunk of the way to Soto. But would the Blue Jays or Mariners, or any other team in that position, really trade an affordable future star *and* other quality prospects for two and a half expensive years of Soto? Plus, Soto is still just 23 years old. Manoah is nine months older!

So that $190.9M mark is going to be nearly impossible to reach. What if the Nationals brought it down? Corbin (-$58.6M) and Strasburg’s (-$154.5M) values are both deeply underwater, and certainly the team would love to get out from under their contracts. It might even make the franchise more attractive to a potential buyer.

Corbin’s inclusion in particular doesn’t make much sense for Washington. If the Nationals are to trade Soto, it would largely be because they don’t believe they can contend again before he hits free agency (or afford to extend him; more on that later). Corbin’s contract expires after the 2024 season, the same time Soto would hit free agency. If the Nationals don’t think they can contend in 2023 or 2024 with Soto, then why would there be any urgency to free up budget in those years if they’re trading Soto anyway?

An argument could be made for Strasburg, whose contract could truly hamstring the team for years to come. He’s currently the least valuable player in baseball according to our model. Few teams, if any, would take his full contract, and it wouldn’t make sense for the Nationals to drag Soto’s value into the $30M range trying to move it all.

What if the Nationals ate half of Strasburg’s $161.2 million remaining salary? That would bring the trade package to $117.0M total value, still a very reasonable haul and one that might be more attainable for other teams. But it’s still a huge ask – over $100 million in prospect value, plus $17.5 million of sunk cost salary for the next four and a half years. And that doesn’t even count Soto’s future salaries, as any team giving up such a large package for him would likely look to extend him long-term.

Finally, there’s the optics of it all. The Nationals’ current owners, the Lerners, likely wouldn’t want their image tarnished by trading a young superstar and potential future Hall of Famer on their way out the door. Likewise, new ownership won’t want their first impression to be refusing to pay a franchise player market rate and forcing him out the door instead.

A Juan Soto trade just doesn’t make sense right now. Jose Ramirez was in a similar situation the last few years, prior to his recent extension. He was a constant presence in trade rumors, but between his talent, age and affordable contract, he was just too valuable to be traded. It wasn’t until this past offseason, with just two years remaining on his contract, that Cleveland reportedly started to line up trades in case they were unable to extend him.

It will take Soto longer to get to that point, mainly because he is six years younger. But he’ll get there, and there’s no reason for the Nationals to trade him early for a subpar return – the only kind they could possibly receive at this point.

Instead, they can keep trying to extend him. He reportedly rejected a 13-year, $350 million offer, which definitely appears low. After a very rough arbitration estimate for his next two seasons, that comes out to about a $26 million average annual value over 11 years, his age 26 through 36 seasons. That’s certainly low – as a free agent, he might command $40-45 million annually for that span. But perhaps there’s a middle ground, especially if he’s willing to take a small discount with the team he won his first championship with, and maybe new ownership will really open up the check books a la Steve Cohen with the Mets.

But even if the Nationals can’t extend Soto, there is no reason to trade him at this point. His value is as high as it will ever be, but there’s no chance they will be able to receive full market value in return right now. It is incredibly likely that the highest bid for Soto today will not fundamentally differ too much from the highest bid a year from now.

About the Author

Joshua Iversen

Joshua Iversen

Associate Editor of baseballtradevalues.com
24 Comments
  1. DB A

    Thanks for the piece. But I think this is diametrically wrong:

    “Corbin’s inclusion in particular doesn’t make much sense for Washington … If the Nationals don’t think they can contend in 2023 or 2024 with Soto, then why would there be any urgency to free up budget in those years if they’re trading Soto anyway?”

    Rather, if they Nats don’t think they can contend in 2023 or 2024, why pour money down a hole in the process?

    Including both Corbin and Strasburg is the most interesting trade option. (And contrary to the idea that it would hurt a sale, a prospective buyer of the franchise might be more interested in coming in with a clean slate.) But it seems terribly unlikely that the Mets or Dodgers (or anyone else) would be willing to eat that kind of tax hit.

    • Bertin Lefkovic

      If I was the GM of the Yankees and could get Soto and all that it would cost me is to attach Corbin and Strasburg to him, I would make that deal in a nanosecond. Yes, the Yankees payroll would skyrocket into the same tier as the Dodgers and Mets, but so what? Replacing Gallo with Soto for the foreseeable future would all but guarantee the Yankees a postseason spot for the next decade. Unfortunately, Shallow Pockets Hal would never allow such a deal to get made even though the revenue that this monster team would generate would more than make up for the additional cost.

      I wholeheartedly agree that the next owner of the Nationals would prefer to buy a team with a clean slate even if it also means losing Soto. It is my guess that if Soto is not traded, he will sign with a new team once he reaches free agency, because he will want to go somewhere that will give him a chance to win more World Series rings.

      • Kurt Eger

        This is probably one of the main reasons you and people who think like this are not running the Yankees. It would actually make more sense for a smaller market team who has cap space to absorb Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin where the pitchers alone are going to cost nearly $60M a year for a number of seasons and to make matters worse, the Yankees are over the salary cap, so it would effect things like their ability to sign amateur players and they’d be paying double the salary for anything over, so it would be like paying $120M a year for half a decade, just to get Soto for two seasons with no guarantee he’d stay.

        Even if he did, you’re then adding his $20M+ a year going forward at double, so eating those bad contracts would be like paying Juan Soto $160M/year, he’d have to perform like prime Babe Ruth against a Little League team of 9-12 year old kids and we’re not even talking about the ones good enough to go to Williamsport, NJ. Just to break even he’d have to play the best version of him defensively in LF with the best version of him baserunning wise and then hit something like .400/.600/1.000 for like a 1.600 OPS just to justify eating both of the Corbin and Strasburg contracts and paying going rate for a under 25 corner outfielder.

        • Bertin Lefkovic

          Yes, there can be no doubt that paying Corbin and Strasburg what is owed them plus the $500MM over 14 years that it would take to sign Soto plus the massive luxury taxes is an insane amount of money, but there is no doubt in my mind that it would be worth it. I think that Matt Blake could fix whatever ails Corbin and the Yankees can get enough out of Strasburg to get enough value that it would make sense.

          That said, the Yankees don’t even need to take both Corbin and Strasburg to get a deal done. They just need to involve other teams who have needs that can be met by a blockbuster deal. I was able to construct a four-team deal between the Giants, Nationals, Red Sox, and Yankees that would be good for all four teams.

          https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trades/trade-85893/

          https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trades/trade-85895/

  2. Bertin Lefkovic

    This is a great article, Joshua, but I wholeheartedly disagree with you. There is most certainly a deal to be made. It will just take numerous teams; four to be exact, to get it done. Unfortunately, your site does not allow 4-team deals, so I had to get creative.

    https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trades/trade-85893/

    https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trades/trade-85895/

    I started with a three-team deal between the Giants, Nationals, and Yankees that sent Luciano and Yastrzemski, who will be flipped to the Red Sox for Bello, Duran, and Jordan, from the Giants and Peraza and Pereira from the Yankees to the Nationals. The Giants are going to get Andujar, Gallo, Judge, and Mongomery from the Yankees and Cronin from the Nationals. The Yankees are going to get Corbin and Soto from the Nationals and DeSclafani, Gonzalez, Pederson, and Wood from the Giants.

    Even though Judge has been better than Soto in 2022, Soto is the much better bet in the long run, especially since Judge is probably going to sign with the Giants and not the Yankees this offseason. As soon as all of the physicals clear, the Giants will give Judge the 10 years and $375MM that he wants, front-loading the deal with $50MM per year for the first two years, $40MM per year for the next five years, and $25MM per year for the last three years with opt-outs after years two, five, and seven. The Yankees will also immediately lock Soto up to a 14-year/$500MM contract.

    Pederson will be a huge upgrade over Gallo for the Yankees, especially in the postseason, while Gallo will perform much better for the Giants than he did for the Yankees, so both teams will be happy as Judge will outperform Yastrzemski, who will be wholeheartedly embraced by Red Sox Nation, especially when he hits 4 HRs in one game at Yankee Stadium. Corbin, Desclafani, Monty, and Wood will all perform well for their new teams, particularly Corbin, who joins the team that he should have signed with all along, his World Series ring notwithstanding.

  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    Why are the Nationals on the hook for Scherzer’s deferred money? Wouldn’t that be the Dodgers’ responsibility when they traded for him?

    • John Bitzer

      No. The Dodgers are only responsible for the amount of deferred money associated with the time they had him. The Nats are responsible for the rest.

    • Kurt Eger

      In addition to what John said, it also depends on the framework of the contract between the two organizations when they consummated the trade. The Nationals could have required the Dodgers to pay all of the back money or the Dodgers could have required that the future money would be paid by the Nationals regardless of a trade being made. The benefit for the Dodgers is that they make such a huge amount of money that absorbing costs that are within reason and don’t affect the salary cap are an easy way to limit the cost to acquire star players.

      If the Dodgers were willing to take on the Corbin contract, their only concern would be cap space. So they would trade short-term (Bellinger) bad contracts for long-term (Corbin) bad contracts to make the money work. Then they send money to pay for the salary of Bellinger, which doesn’t count against their cap, but allows them to maintain or lower their cap hit, while using their money to influence trade costs.

      The trade I made work in this case was:

      Dodgers get: Juan Soto OF, Keibert Ruiz C, and Patrick Corbin SP

      Nationals get: Will Smith C, Clay Bellinger 1B/OF, Gavin Lux 2B/SS, Max Muncy 1B/2B, Bobby Miller SP, and $10M

      I actually did another version of this with more money ($24 instead of $10M) going to the Nationals and David Price along with Diego Cartaya instead of Will Smith, while the Nationals would only include Soto and Corbin while keeping Ruiz as their catcher. Unfortunately, the trade calculator wouldn’t accept a trade unless a higher value player was going back in the deal, but realistically Lux, Cartaya, and Miller are worth around $38M, $41M, and $27M respectively and Bellinger and Muncy are worth around $4M and $13M each.

      Taking on a $70M albatross contract like Patrick Corbin would be huge for the Nationals and it would be like including a high value player. If Bellinger bounces back, you get a young piece you can extend and some could argue that prime Bellinger was better than prime Soto to date, especially when you consider the defense and speed that Clay offers, plus the positional flexibility of playing CF and 1B as opposed to simply the two corners in the outfield. Should Muncy get back to 2021 levels that becomes a nice short-term contract and at his age, it would not be cost prohibitive to extend him while there are so many holes around the diamond in Washington.

  4. Steven Gawrys

    Good article, but I will push back a bit. Soto’s is a good player, but not even close to what the hype suggests. Yes, his 19 & 21 seasons were good, but were they Mike trout type seasons out of the gate? Not even close. Not even in the same universe so why are we talking about Mike Trout treatment?

    • Kurt Eger

      I’m going to double-down on this sentiment. Yes, Soto is a generational player as a hitter, but he is already below-average as a fielder and is not a good baserunner, things that Trout has at least performed well at and at times has excelled. The biggest problem with the evaluations on this site are with the stars, which Juan Soto’s current season is highlighting.

      At these contract values that stars make, it only takes one injury (Strasburg) that never seems to heal right, an unexplainable inability to pitch despite maintaining velocity and control (Corbin), or simply, a player either playing hurt or becoming complacent like Juan Soto, either he lost muscle tone, didn’t work as hard on his off-season workout routine, or he’s injured because his batted ball is down 3 mph.

      Being down 3 mph on your exit velocity doesn’t sound like a lot of difference, but if we look at launch angles, barrel rates, and exit velocity in conjunction with ISO, it will make more sense. I compared Taylor Ward because all of a sudden he started becoming more Mike Trout than Mike Trout for a long enough time period that I wanted to do a sniff test on his outcomes and see if he was a late age (28-30) emerging star like Nelson Cruz or a guy who is just beating his batted ball profile for a couple months (spoiler alert: he still is just okay and luck was definitely on his side in April and May). So I compared Ward against other hitters with similar barrel rates as they should have similar profiles or be easier to group. Ward has a barrel rate of 13.9 at the time of this writing, so following the same process, I grabbed everyone within 1% up or down and I isolated it to only players with 150 PAs or more. Here’s what I found…

      B-Rates EV (mph) L-Angle ISO %

      Austin Riley 14.8 93.7 12.6 .263
      Marcell Ozuna 14.5 89.9 15.3 .193
      Eugenio Suarez 14.4 88.1 17.7 .196
      Bryce Harper 14.4 92.8 14.1 .281
      Julio Rodriguez 14.3 92.1 11 .190
      Jorge Alfaro 14.3 91 9.6 .207
      Christopher Morel 14.2 89.8 8 .213
      Taylor Ward 13.9 89.5 14.4 .240
      Jack Suwinski 13.8 88.5 13.4 .253
      Pete Alonso 13.7 89.3 19.6 .269
      Christian Betancourt 13.7 92 9.4 .141
      Hunter Renfroe 13.6 89.7 15.7 .242
      Nick Gordon 13.4 91.3 11.1 .148
      Daniel Vogelbach 13.1 90.5 16.9 .200
      Seiya Suzuki 13 90.4 16.9 .187

      Immediately some things become readily apparent, Dan Vogelbach is virtually tied with Seiya Suzuki in B-Rate, EV, and L-Angle and their ISO and those numbers clearly correlate with ISO results. The other thing that should probably be added in hindsight is foot speed. Which I take aim at below. You’ll notice that only three guys hit the ball as hard as Julio, there is Riley who is way above average on EV and his .263 ISO reflects it, but then you have Harper who is a full mph slower than Riley, yet has a higher ISO. If you look at the launch angles for Riley and Harper, you’ll see that Harper is has a 1.5 degree higher trajectory on his batted balls, which is why he probably has more homeruns despite an inferior EV, but realize that once you get into the 91.5 mph or higher range, then it’s just about how far it goes past the fence with the right launch angle.

      The next guy at 92.1 is Julio and despite a poor launch angle at 11 degrees, his foot speed has kept his ISO close to .200, but he’ll have to learn to lean on a pitch a little more and since April, it appears that he may have already made those improvements and we just need to wait to see that bear out. Finally, we look at Betancourt who has a 92 mph exit velo, but he only has a launch angle of 9.4 which is why with his speed, he is only putting up a .141 ISO. While Taylor Ward is exhibiting the barrel rates to be successful and his launch angle compliments his EV, his ISO still feels a little high at .240 despite his above-average speed. The biggest reason why Ward is going to see a dramatic drop in his production is he has never produced a barrel rate over 10.5 and 10.3 being his career best rates. Unless he had eye surgery or some other justifiable change, it’s hard to imagine his hand-eye coordination took a large step forward like this in one season at 28 years old.

      To make a point…

      B-Rates EV (mph) L-Angle ISO % Speed

      Matt Chapman 12.6 92.1 22.1 .180 28.1
      Mike Trout 21.3 92.1 24.4 .350 29.5
      Julio Rodriguez 14.3 92.1 9.6 .207 29.5

      ISO obviously includes doubles and triples, so faster speed will have a marginal effect on those numbers. With all having the same exit velocity, it is clear they are all hitting the ball hard, but then what is the difference for the outcomes. Chapman is still a good runner, but there are already a number of plays where Trout and Julio use their speed to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples that are just not possible for Chapman.

      The launch angle is another thing, Julio has a much flatter swing, so he puts more balls in play while Trout depends on the fly ball going over the fence with his crazy extreme launch angle, which is why Trout is known to struggle with pitches up because he has a very loopy swing like the traditional lefty bats. While it may never happen, if Trout stops barreling up so many pitches, he may see a giant decline like Chapman unless he makes other adjustments.

      Chapman had his best year in 2018 despite a horrible 8.9 barrel rate, but he also was a step faster and had his best launch angle of his career at 14.9, which is why he only had 24 HR 6 triples, and 42 doubles. The next year he traded doubles for homeruns going to 36 doubles and 36 HRs, while also seeing his triples drop from 6 to 3 in 2019. The difference being that his barrel rate increased to 12.1 and his launch angle jumped to 16.6, more balls finding the sweet spot and a slight upturn in your swing will add 5-10 HR add in a 10% luck factor and you can easily explain the change. This is also why Chapman should never be seen as anything more than a 25-30 HR hitter unless some major changes occur, but at his age, those seem unlikely.

      Coming full circle back on Juan Soto, his foot speed is 26.2 ft/sec., which is slow. Juan Soto is a coin flip from losing to catchers Joey Bart and P.J. Higgins in a foot race. Add in his launch angle of 6.3 and I don’t know how he gets the ball out of the infield unless he is running some crazy stupid splits of either HR or groundball with virtually nothing in between. Add in his EV drop of 3 mph and now everything that used to go over the fence is ending up at the warning track or worse. From the chart above, you can see that if his EV is truly going to stay around 89-90, he’ll need to get under the ball more and create more backspin to hit his fair share of homeruns. When you add in his barrel rate of 12.6 which is only .3 better than his second worse barrel rate for a season. When he had his career high 18.8 barrel rate in the strike shortened season he was on pace for a 45 double and 45 homerun pace.

      One might wonder if the rusty pitchers were leaving the ball over the plate more than normal and combined with the number of pitchers that decided not to play because of COVID or injury, the talent might have been thinner too. I love Juan’s plate discipline and contact numbers, he needs to revamp his launch angle and we need to find out what happened to his barrel rate and especially his exit velocity, but there is no way I would pay him $400M even for his age and this is why Rizzo is trying to work around bad contracts to Strasburg and Corbin. The Nationals should have cut-ties with Rizzo when they had a chance and they should do the same thing with Soto because of three reasons… One, they aren’t even close to competing and their farm system is questionable at best. Two, the return could be enough to triple the expected WAR output of Soto and for the foreseeable future at significantly less money while they build around a young core. Three, there are warning signs that can’t be overlooked in terms of age, weight, and speed. I see him as a better hitting and slower version of Andruw Jones. I think he may have 9-12 more good seasons and then he’ll have a sizeable fall off to the point you will just be eating bad salary for a useless player.

      The valuations of the high end players on this site is way off because it doesn’t factor in the risk factor of TJ surgery (all pitchers), getting hit by a pitch and fracturing your thumb (Harper), or running to 1st base and pulling a hamstring (every hitter) to name a few things. Plus there is no cap on expectations. The standard WAR predictions usually add .5 WAR every year until the player is in the late 20s and then it takes away .5 WAR every year using their peak season to assess. Juan Soto is NOT worth $190M in excess value. Currently, he’s making $17.1M and he’ll make probably $22-23M in 2023 plus $29-30M in 2024. Even if you take $10M off those estimates, he’s owed $50M over the final 2.5 years of his team control. Everyone who looks at WAR estimators will tell you that you cap WAR estimates at 7-8 WAR, even if they are a Jewish carpenter born over 2000 years ago. If you take the high side and say 8 WAR x 2.5 = 20 WAR x $9M/WAR which is at the top of the scale for free agents (read: not controllable players with no market), you get $180M in value. Already the $190.9M valuation is $10.9 too high. Add in his contracts for 2022-2024 at the low side and Soto is worth $130M in trade value. Again, I can not say this enough, the prospect values are solid on baseballtradevalues.com, but the upper level players are crazy and need to be brought back to reality.

      I’m even willing to acknowledge inflation and call it $9.5M/WAR, which takes Soto’s value to $140M in excess value. At $140M he would require Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez, which to me passes the sniff test. I couldn’t see giving up Rutschman, Grayson, and Mullins essentially for what is Soto’s supposed value of nearly $200M in excess. As for the a Red Sox trade, can we really say that Juan Soto is worth almost three times as much as Devers for only one more season? That would be like the Red Sox trading 1.5 years of Devers, Marcelo Mayer, and 6+ seasons of Garrett Whitlock for 2.5 years of Juan Soto. Does that sound like I’m undervaluing Soto? If you ask me on a blind test without seeing numbers where I would include another Top 25 prospect in addition to Devers, Mayer, and Whitlock, it would be a hard no.

      • John Bitzer

        Injury risk is factored in to every player in our system, and if anything it’s even more pronounced with high-end players. We also apply contract risk for those on large fixed contracts.

        I would caution you not to assume things about our model.

        • Kurt Eger

          Then how do you justify 190.9M for 2.5 years of Juan Soto? You are literally assuming his value is $100M/year, if you predict him to be worth 10 WAR that is a $10M/WAR valuation. If you are saying he is expected to have a 8 WAR season, that’s $12.33M/WAR. That leaves absolutely no margin for expected injury or regression.

          In fact, it assumes he’s going to be Mike Trout’s best seasons for this year and the next two years, despite being about three to four step slower per second, playing sub-optimal defense in a corner outfield position, and being 20-30% less capable of Trout’s power. Trout is a generational player, maybe the best player in the last half decade and he was only worth 70.6 fWAR and 72 bWAR over his prime 8 years before falling off which was good for a 8.825 fWAR or a 9.0 bWAR/season average depending on which WAR formula you prefer to use.

          https://blogs.fangraphs.com/what-are-teams-paying-per-war-in-free-agency/

          This article over at fangraphs that I linked shows that the highest average value per win paid in free agency was $9.5M/win and has dropped to $8.5M/win in 2022. By that valuation, with absolutely no rounding down you are expecting Soto to be worth between 26 and 30 WAR for the last 2.5 years of his control which is crazy.

          To put this in perspective, Soto’s best year was the strike-shortened 2020 where he had a 2.5 WAR and was on course for a 7.5 WAR if the season would have been 162 games, however that comes with big error bars based on player availability due to missed seasons, illness, and overall readiness. Many players had their best seasons due to players not being available, considering the short amount of time and the other error bars, we’ll set that season aside for now.

          The rest of his fWAR seasons are 3.7, 5.7, 7.0, and he’s got 1.8 in 2022 which is on course for 3.6 fWAR currently, even if he hits his best season total with a bounce back second half, he’s looking at a max of 5-6 fWAR, pretty hard to image a 10-12 fWAR or bWAR for that matter and even crazier to expect him to average it for the next 2.5 years under any circumstance.

          For his bWAR seasons he had 3.0, 5.0, 2.4, 7.1, and 2.4 this season, which puts him on course for 4.8 bWAR which is a little more optimistic, but still nowhere near the 10-12 bWAR expectation to hit those valuations.

          I’m not assuming anything, I am reverse engineering your math and seeing that it doesn’t make sense. I’m trying to help you and rather than make the changes or offer a reasonable explanation, you give me a passive aggressive warning. Why am I getting cautioned about “assuming” things about your model? I have not just talked crap about your site, I have congratulated you on a great product, I think you do a great job in general, but the error bars allow players who don’t fit the standard mold to become unusual outliers.

          How did Ty France go backwards in value for a sprained elbow that’ll keep him out two weeks, yet Soto forgets how to hit water falling out of a boat and he’s still expected to post 10 WAR in 2023 and 2024, while bouncing back this year to get another 5 WAR in the last 75 or so games? That’s… very optimistic.

          • John Bitzer

            First of all, although they’re interrelated, the trade market is different than the free agent market in a few respects. Because they are different forms of capital, $/WAR will vary more in the trade market based on circumstances. Superstars are much more difficult to acquire in the trade market, because the player may not be available, so there’s an extra cost to pry him loose.

            Further, there’s a relationship between $/WAR and years of control, which that FG piece does not address. It’s commonly understood that shorter timeframes carry smaller risk, and longer timeframes carry larger risk. This is because a) long, large contracts can hamstring a team, such that they lose the opportunity to spend that money on other options; b) the risk of perrformance decline and/or injury is magnified relative to a fixed cost.

            In short, that is why Max Scherzer can get paid $43M per year on a three-year contract. It is why prime Mike Trout’s money had to be extended over a long period of time.

            Soto is not on a fixed contract, therefore there is no contract risk, and the fact that he has only 2.5 years of control, with the optionality to back out at any time should something catastrophic happen, is an additional benefit. That lack of risk, combined with the increased cost of acquisition due to the circumstances of the trade market, increases his $/WAR.

            We did not ask for your help on our model. Your tone assumes that we haven’t considered all the variables, which is dismissive, and why I warned you.

        • Kurt Eger

          I guess I was right because the original deal with Hosmer values Soto at $104M in excess value. The 5-for-2 deal that was agreed to by the Padres and Nationals values Soto around $125M. So a deal was possible like I said and you guys were overvaluing his projections, like I indicated in my other comments.

          • John Bitzer

            Well, no, because Hosmer is not in the deal now, and even if he was, SD would have paid $39M of his salary, effectively nullifying the negative value. So Soto was $39M higher than that original deal suggested, which means we were close (albeit still a little high, granted).

    • Brian Theiss

      I posted this in a trade discussion section but it makes more sense here.

      Note: I’m not trying to be argumentative with this post/question, this comes from a place of genuine curiosity, just want to state that up front as it is often hard to convey tone in this medium.

      Help me out with something here. Soto’s projected salary of $71.2M seems a bit high but within reason. How is the 248 projected future value, in 2.4 seasons, being arrived at? That’s just over $100M per season in value. I thought the cost of a win was around $8M post COVID. Looking at ZiPS projections Soto is projected for 3.2 WAR ROS in 2022, then 7.9 and 7.7 WAR in 2023 and 2024. That’s just under 19 WAR in total, which implies a $13M/WAR price point, maybe he explanation is that simple. The alternative is adjusting the other lever and you are projecting Soto to be much more than an 8 win player. But even at $10M/WAR that’s a 10 WAR per season projection.

      In Ben Clemens article at fangraphs yesterday he pegged his surplus value on a pure WAR basis around $90M, which is half of what this site is projecting (surplus value matches median trade value).

      “Adding a superstar is so valuable beyond the raw WAR figures — you’re concentrating production in a single roster spot, and the upgrade from whoever you’re currently plugging into Soto’s spot in the lineup will be massive — and the raw WAR figures already argue for nearly $90 million of surplus value in the next two-plus years.”

      Further considering Scherzer’s deal of 3 years and $130M as a recent 3 year contract for an elite player. Soto is younger, a little better, and not a pitcher. The aforementioned $90M of surplus value (plus let’s say $10-20M for the first 60% of this season, so let’s say $100M in surplus value) on top of his projected $80M in salary (beginning of season) gives us a three year contract for $180M, $50M more than Scherzer got. That seems a little bit of a reach but barely within the realm of believable. A $248 plus whatever he produced in the first part of the season, call it $30M in value puts his value at $280M on a three year deal, or $100M more than I just worked out. I can’t see any team giving Soto $280M over three years, it just doesn’t seem to pass this “reasonability check” of mine.

      Perhaps an even better case study is the Correa contract. He signed for three years and $105M ($35M AAV) and has opt outs after the first and second year, so basically like a year to year contract except the player is in control, which has value to Correa. Maybe he gets $10-15M in value out of that which let’s say would put him around $40M AAV for a three year deal and maybe a smidge higher if he signed a deal with team options for 2023 and 2024.

      Correa was worth 11.3 fWAR from 2019-2021, Soto was worth 15.8 fWAR in that same time period, or 40% more. Let’s say he’s worth 50% more going forward due to age differences (23-25 for Soto vs. age 27-29 for Correa). That’s around $60M per season or so going off the inflated $40M for Correa if he didn’t control the options, but rather the team did. That still leaves a massive gap of $40M per season and close to $70M overall (248 for 2.4 seasons).

      I get that other considerations are being made, maybe it would be easier to “see” those considerations if there was a difference between surplus value and median trade value in instances like these, where surplus value is literally just projected WAR X $/WAR and then median trade value accounts for no downside contract risk due to there being no contract but rather being under team control through the arb process.

      I don’t know, maybe they can’t be untangled, but something is happening because I just can’t wrap my head around that 248 number and reading the comments here haven’t really done much to help me understand that number. Maybe given the news about Soto a separate piece about how his trade value was derived would be worthwhile.

      These two very recent comps for very good players on three year deals and then Clemens’ surplus value comment in yesterday’s article (surely with the most up to date ZiPS projections since Clemens is doing fangraphs trade value series this year) stating a $90M in surplus value calculation, aligning with projected contracts based on what Correa and Scherzer got, just further cements my confusion about the 248 value and the corresponding 177 in surplus value. I get it that Soto is an extreme outlier, and thus really hard for a model to put a value on, I guess I just would have liked that article to go a bit more into how that value was derived instead of just focusing on how no team can meet that asking price (perhaps because the asking price is overstated?).

      I’m just genuinely curious as to how this was arrived at. I think this website is great, it’s a godsend that has saved me countless hours when spit balling trades. Of course I disagree with values here and there, but I’ve never come across a value that I have this much trouble reconciling.

      • John Bitzer

        Great points. You’re on the right track with a lot of those comments.

        A couple of points: 1) We add what we call the “October bonus,” which means the team gets that player’s contributions for free in the postseason (since the team doesn’t have to pay the player’s salary). Soto could help a playoff team for the next three postseasons for free. That expected production also has a higher $/WAR due to the maximum value of wins in October.

        2) We calculate $/WAR differently than Fangraphs does. They don’t factor injury risk, which is a very real thing. Soto has very little injury risk as a 23-year-old, which means his $/WAR is higher.

        3) He’s a unicorn, and superstars are scarce; history shows that their acquisition cost in trade is extremely high as a result of bidding wars, which we’re anticipating here (Mookie was a huge overpay relative to $/WAR for similar reasons). This is especially true at the deadline, when trades are the only way to improve a roster (as opposed to the offseason, when you can buy a free agent). That again creates a skew.

        • Brian Theiss

          Thank you so much for your response. I think it would be great if this were disentangled a bit in the trade simulator where surplus value is their “on field production minus contract” but then the median value baked in a lot of these additional considerations so you could see that difference more clearly. Maybe it’s just me.

          I would love to see a more robust breakdown of how these specific things affect Soto’s trade value but you all have already done a podcast and an article about him.

          I totally get how a bidding war will drive up his value and how he’s about as safe a bet as you can get in the near term (especially compared to the Scherzer contract), but it would be awesome to see some of these adjustments itemized. Again, I just love getting into the weeds on this stuff.

          Thanks again for the response, and the all the great work with the site.

  5. DJ dajuba

    Well, I guess he’s not untradeable after all

    In a somewhat shocking development, the Washington Nationals will now listen to trade offers for transcendent superstar Juan Soto, per the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Soto reportedly rejected a $440MM extension offer, prompting the change of heart o the Nationals’ part.

    • DJ dajuba

      Of course, he’s not traded yet, but this might be fun to watch play out. Does it happen at the deadline or during the off season. I’d love to see it happen at the deadline, be more interesting for the rest of the year. My guess is if he does get traded , it’s during the off season.

  6. Tom Hawver

    Thanks for the write up. I have a question. How does this site determine surplus value?? I like to play around with trades, but some just seem so out of wack. Soto’s is one of them. Where do you get that 190 million from? Let’s say we add another 2 wins to this season. Also, I’m going to give him another 12 win in 23 and 24. That’s a total of 14 wins at 9 million a win. That’s 126 million. Now we have to back out the remainder of this season, and his next two season’s projected salary. Let’s call it 60 million in salary. That would give him a surplus value of 66 million. Where does 190 million come from.

    If you can, will you please explain the formula this site uses to determine surplus?

    Thanks so much, Tom

    • John Bitzer

      Some of it is proprietary, but the gist is that there are many other factors that play into it. It’s not as simple as calculating wins. What we figured out a long time ago is that the algorithms front offices use are more complicated.

      All three major versions of WAR have many assumptions built into them, but if you study the market like we have, you’ll find that the simple versions don’t correlate. There’s a heavy skew towards offense, so we adjust for that (way up, in this case). There’s also a positional skew (2B-only types like Cesar Hernandez and Kolten Wong are worth about half what $/WAR would suggest).

      Further, $/WAR calculations ignore risk — both injury risk and contract risk. Soto is 23, and has no injury history and no fixed contract. So that increases his value, because there’s no deduction for those factors.

      Being 23, aging curves also suggest that he hasn’t peaked yet. He figures to get better in his age 24 and 25 years. So there’s a boost there.

      Also, any team that acquires him would be a contender with postseason expectations, and they’d be getting him for three postseasons. This is very significant, because those are free. The team doesn’t pay his salary in October — the players are paid out of a league pool. So that’s a lot more surplus.

      Also, there’s a superstar tax implied. Superstars are rarely traded. The market forces create a severe imbalance between supply and demand, which creates large overpays. Go look at the Mookie Betts trade and you’ll see an example of that.

      Finally, the dynamics of the trade market this time of year play into it. In the offseason, there are two avenues: free agency or trade. You have the option to improve your team by buying a free agent, which neutralizes prices somewhat in the trade market. Now, no such alternative exists. The trade market is the only game in town, which in turn raises the acquisition cost.

  7. Wyatt Bailey

    If Juan Soto stays in washington he is negatively affecting the team in the form of increasing draft position, assuming he doesn’t resign, which is of course, key.

    I’d argue WSH could get the foundation of their future playoff club by trading someone they wouldn’t have anyways.

    Why wait until the offseason? You’re not getting as much, I’d only wait if severe time pressure started. I don’t understand why so many people think that 2.5 years on a bad team is more profitable (from a baseball standpoint) then getting a huge haul to start to build around. Half a year is significant.

    Haven’t we all watched Ohtani and Trout? What would Trout have gotten a few years ago?

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