There are three finalists in the running to complete a trade for Washington Nationals star Juan Soto, but one team is reportedly separating itself from the pack.
MLB insider Hector Gomez reported Monday that the St. Louis Cardinals are "intensifying" their pursuit of Soto, becoming "much more aggressive of late in their trade proposals."
However, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the Cardinals have not yet been willing to include Dylan Carlson and top prospects in a package together:
Jon Morosi @jonmorosi
In Juan Soto trade talks, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/STLCards?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#STLCards</a> haven’t been willing to include Dylan Carlson *and* their top prospects in the same offer — at least, thus far. Negotiations are reaching a critical point. <a href="https://twitter.com/MLBNetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLBNetwork</a>
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres are also still in the race to land the 23-year-old slugger.
Washington understandably has a high asking price for Soto, who is already a two-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and one-time National League batting champion. Teams have until the trade deadline at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday to get a deal done.
The Cardinals, Padres and Dodgers all have strong farm systems full of talented players to include in trade packages. It was reported last week by ESPN's Buster Olney that San Diego was perceived by rival teams to be the front-runner to land Soto, but now that distinction appears to belong to St. Louis.
If the Cardinals manage to acquire Soto, it would be a significant addition to a team in the thick of the playoff race. At 54-48, St. Louis is one game out of a NL wild-card spot and three games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. Soto would boost an already-potent lineup that averages 4.6 runs per game.
However, the Soto negotiations reportedly have impacted other teams as they try to make moves prior to the trade deadline. There have only been a couple of significant deals done, with the New York Yankees acquiring outfielder Andrew Benintendi and the Seattle Mariners landing starting pitcher Luis Castillo.
Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, "it was Soto's insertion into the trade deadline machine—two weeks ago, after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension offer—that helped grind the process to a halt."
As negotiations continue, it's unclear which team is willing to meet Washington's asking price. With just over 24 hours remaining before the deadline, there's an increased chance that the Nationals wait until the offseason to deal the outfielder.