Don’t expect the Mets to leave DC with Juan Soto, which is fine – The Denver Post
WASHINGTON, DC – The Mets are in the nation’s capital for three games with the Washington Nationals.
Monday morning, Juan Soto is still there too.
From a purely practical standpoint, there couldn’t be a better time for Billy Eppler to pounce. Dealing for Soto would give the Mets one more bat they craved, and rather than having to throw everything in a suitcase and sprint to the next flight (like Tyler Naquin did this weekend to meet the Mets in Miami), Soto could just walk down a hallway from the Nationals clubhouse to the visitors’ one.
If only life were that simple.
The Mets haven’t been seriously linked to Soto in recent talks, and the consensus is that if they want to land Gen Z Ted Williams, they should also part ways with 20-year-old phenom Francisco Alvarez. like maybe the team’s top five prospects Brett Baty or Mark Vientos.
With the Nationals residing in the same division as the Mets, plus the fact that Washington doesn’t totally need to trade Soto at the deadline, the odds are slim. There is growing belief that unless the Nationals receive a sponsorship offer, they will retain Soto and reassess the situation in the offseason. Besides how awful the optics of trading Soto to eastern Newfoundland – and then having remaining Nats fans watch him play with his new team at Nationals Park would be – there’s also the question of the probable sale of the team at the end of the season.
Nationals owners understand that the value of the franchise is much higher with Soto. The team is essentially for sale, and it benefits both the current regime and future regimes to have one of the game’s brightest stars in place whenever the club changes hands. So if Soto stays and the Mets can’t hit a 600-foot home run in a Shohei Ohtani trade, their gaze shifts to the next tier of available players.
Getting a Willson Contreras-David Robertson package from the Cubs really makes too much sense for the Mets. They need a receiver (Contreras’ 132 wRC+ is tied for first among NL backstops) and a reputable reliever to get the ball from the starting rotation to Edwin Diaz’s firearm . Robertson is now 37, but he has a 2.23 ERA this season, he’s out left-handed and, more importantly, he’s pitched 33 games in the playoffs.
The problem with a profession that makes too much sense is that it makes too much sense. The Cubs aren’t going anywhere in 2022, but they can definitely strengthen their team for the future. Knowing they have certain things the Mets covet, it’s obviously incumbent on them to get the best deal possible, which means scouting for premium prospects from the Mets farm. Whether Eppler’s front office is comfortable with it probably comes down to the dilemma of trying to win it all in a matter of months or ensuring the team is set up for sustained success in the second half of the decade.
Contreras and Robertson are definitely moving the needle for 2022, but both will hit free agency this winter, and any players the Mets trade for them could plague the franchise well beyond this year. The banners hang forever, of course, but so can the lingering fear if one of the kids involved in the trade becomes an eternal All-Star. Moving a top-five prospect for hire is a bad deal and likely hampers the Mets in a Contreras-Robertson trade unless Chicago lowers its asking price.
If the Mets make a trade with the Nationals while they’re in DC, acquiring a guy like Josh Bell or Kyle Finnegan is more realistic than Soto. Bell runs the risk of being a little redundant now that the Mets have added Daniel Vogelbach, another first baseman/DH. But Bell is a significantly better overall hitter than Vogelbach, and his .861 OPS against lefties means he wouldn’t be relegated to squad duty. Playing Bell at DH every day and Vogelbach only when needed puts the Mets in much better shape, but that’s all hypothetical, of course, and they’d have to pay the NL East tax in any trade with Washington.
Finnegan, a 30-year-old right-hander who is the Nats’ top bullpen reliever, is exactly the type of player Washington has no reason to keep. No position group goes from zero to 100 from season to season, just like relief pitchers, and while Finnegan is pitching well now, that doesn’t mean he’ll continue to pitch well as he gets older. If the Mets can just squeeze three more good months off his arm, trading a minor league filler is worth it.
The Mets’ top priority over the next three days in the DMV is sweeping the national championships, an easily achievable task. That would give them nine straight wins, more banked wins as they try to secure a top-two seed in the National League and a first-round bye in the new playoff format, and more steam before a five-game spit with the Braves.
If they have Soto for this Atlanta series, great, but that’s about as likely as the team announcing Mr. and Mrs. Met have filed for divorce. There are several avenues that further improve the team and don’t mortgage the future as much, which may be disappointing for some, but that’s what Eppler should ultimately do.