The Texas Rangers are in the mix on Washington Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto but do not expect to be the highest bidder, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Fox Sports.
The St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners were the reported top four in the Soto sweepstakes on Friday, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
However, the Mariners traded three of their top-five prospects—including the No. 1 player in their farm system, shortstop Noelvi Marte—to the Cincinnati Reds for starting pitcher Luis Castillo on Friday evening.
That deal makes it much harder for the Mariners to construct a trade package needed to land the 23-year-old Soto, who has already made two All-Star Games and finished top-10 in the National League MVP race three times in his five-year career.
The 2020 batting champion and two-time Silver Slugger also has 20 home runs, 45 RBI and a .876 OPS this year.
Jim Bowden of The Athletic reported Friday that the Padres and Cardinals were the front-runners but that was subject to change if offers from other teams improved.
The day before, rival MLB executives told ESPN's Buster Olney that the Padres were perceived as the favorites for Soto.
Rosenthal reported on July 16 that the Nationals would begin entertaining trade offers for Soto after he rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension. The superstar has been a mainstay in trade talks ever since as teams reportedly line up in hopes of landing one of the game's brightest young talents.
There is, of course, the remote possibility that the Nationals keep Soto around. He is under team control through 2024, and he and the Nats could come to a long-term agreement.
Hector Gomez of Z101 Digital reported Friday that Washington planned to make one final offer to Soto. If that was not approved, then the team planned on dealing him before the Tuesday trade deadline.
But ESPN's Jeff Passan pegged Soto moving before the deadline as an "80-20" possibility during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show. However, that came with a caveat regarding general manager Mike Rizzo's current asking price.
"If he [Rizzo] continues to stick with the ask that he's put out to teams up until this point, I'm not sure Juan Soto is going anywhere," Passan said. "Because he's been asking for 125 percent of Juan Soto's value."
As of now, it appears the Rangers, who are struggling at 45-54 despite an offseason spending spree that included bringing in star infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, won't be meeting that price. That would bring Texas back to the drawing board this offseason as the Rangers search for their first playoff berth since 2016.