The trade rumors may be circulating, but Monday was all about the dinger for Juan Soto.
The Washington Nationals slugger dazzled on his way to victory at the 2022 Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium on Monday. He defeated Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners in the finals by launching 19 home runs, which ended a fairy-tale run by the rookie.
Rodriguez was also excellent and blasted a combined 63 long balls in the first two rounds before hitting 18 in the finals.
His effort prevented Pete Alonso from becoming the first player in league history to win the event three times in a row, and the New York Mets star was quite impressed.
Yet it was Soto who emerged from an eight-man field that was seeded in a single-elimination bracket format based on the number of home runs each player has this season.
That meant Kyle Schwarber (Philadelphia Phillies) was the No. 1 seed and earned a matchup with ceremonial inclusion Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals). Alonso was seeded second and faced Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves), Corey Seager (Texas Rangers) was third with a matchup against Rodriguez, and fourth-seeded Soto squared off against Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Guardians).
Alonso's quest for a three-peat was the main storyline coming into the contest, but he quickly took a backseat.
Rodriguez put on an absolute show by blasting 32 home runs in a national introduction for the rookie, and Pujols stunned everyone with a swing-off victory over Schwarber after they each hit 13 home runs during their round.
CBS Sports @CBSSports
Most home runs in a single Home Run Derby round: <br><br>2019 RD 2: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (40)<br>2019 RD 2: Joc Pederson (39)<br>2021 RD 1: Pete Alonso (35)<br>2022 RD 1: JULIO RODRIGUEZ (32)<br>2021 RD 1: Juan Soto (31) <a href="https://t.co/jLZxXV1Bho">pic.twitter.com/jLZxXV1Bho</a>
Jim Passon @PassonJim
Age when Albert Pujols hit his first MLB home run:<br><br>José Ramírez - 8 years, 201 days<br>Kyle Schwarber - 8 years, 32 days<br>Corey Seager - 6 years, 344 days<br>Pete Alonso - 6 years, 120 days<br>Ronald Acuña Jr. - 3 years, 109 days<br>Juan Soto - 2 years, 163 days<br>Julio Rodríguez - 98 days
The veteran and everyone else gave way to the 21-year-old in the semifinals, as Rodriguez continued to take the event by storm. He eliminated Alonso with 31 long balls and cemented himself further in Mariners lore by ensuring Ken Griffey Jr. remains the only player to win the Home Run Derby three times.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Through two rounds, Julio Rodríguez hit 63 total home runs, surpassing Ken Griffey Jr. (59) for most career home runs by a Mariner at the Home Run Derby.<br><br>Rodríguez is also the first ever to hit multiple 30-HR rounds in a single derby. <a href="https://t.co/vhZAahthcR">pic.twitter.com/vhZAahthcR</a>
It seemed like the night belonged to Rodriguez, and the final round would be an exercise in inevitability, but Soto had other plans.
There was perhaps a bit of added pressure on the 23-year-old phenom to perform, given that the trade rumors surrounding him were the talk of the baseball world in the days leading up to the Home Run Derby.
It was first reported last week by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that Soto rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract offer made by the Nationals, leading to the Nats making Soto available in trade talks.
Rosenthal noted that Washington is willing to listen to offers since it believes Soto may never re-sign if he wasn't willing to accept a $440 million deal.
Many MLB teams would likely love to make a run at Soto and ultimately trade for him, but Jon Heyman of the New York Post specifically mentioned the New York Yankees and New York Mets as teams that are expected to explore the possibility of acquiring him.
Soto remains under team control until 2025, so there isn't necessarily any sense of urgency to trade him, and it doesn't appear any type of deal is imminent.
With that in mind, he represented the Nationals well at the Home Run Derby and will look to do the same Tuesday night in the All-Star Game.