One week away from the Major League Baseball trade deadline, it seems like there's a good chance that Juan Soto will play for a different team soon.
Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, one anonymous league executive believes the Washington Nationals' ongoing search for a franchise buyer will put more pressure on current ownership to deal the 23-year-old superstar.
"The Nationals currently are up for sale, and the notion that new ownership's first move would be to trade a future Hall of Famer in his early prime, the executive said, is problematic. Dealing Soto now, he said, would offer the new owner a clean slate," Passan wrote.
Soto was a surprise entrant in the trade-deadline sweepstakes. Amid rumors early in the season that Washington could shop him, general manager Mike Rizzo said in a June radio interview the team wasn't looking to move him.
"We are not trading Juan Soto," Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan (h/t ESPN.com). "We made it clear to his agent and to the player."
On July 16, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported the Nationals plan to entertain trade offers for Soto after he rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension.
The deal would have surpassed Mike Trout's 12-year, $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels as the richest in MLB history. The $29.3 million average annual value of the Nationals' offer to Soto would rank 17th among current contracts, ahead of Jose Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton (both at $29 million per season).
The Lerner family, who has owned the Nationals since 2006, announced in April it was exploring a sale of the franchise.
On the same day Rosenthal's report came out, Jon Heyman of the New York Post noted the Nationals are "almost sure to sell" for at least $2 billion, but there's a "behind-the scenes goal" of getting that figure up to $3 billion.
The Nationals have collapsed since beating the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series. They are likely going to have their third consecutive last-place finish in the National League East this season. Their 33-65 record is the worst mark in MLB.
Trading Soto, who is under team control through 2024, could bring back multiple high-level prospects and allow the Nationals to get back on track sooner than expected.
A two-time All-Star, Soto is hitting .248/.404/.491 with 20 homers and 45 RBI in 95 games this season. He has posted an on-base percentage of at least .400 in each of his first four full seasons from 2018 to 2021.