The Dodgers care not for your newest superteam

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It was his second start in a year.

There’s just something different about deGrom. There are plenty of aces around, and they all can look unhittable at times. Except when they’re on, it just feels like they’re one step ahead of the hitters. When deGrom is on, it looks like he’s armed with something from a different planet that MLB just forgot to rule on. It’s like he’s harnessed the power of a far-away star. The hitter is ancillary to the whole process.

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It seems that October is a bit mapped out, though funny things could happen. Remember when the owners told us they needed a luxury tax and revenue sharing that artificially held down salaries for everyone but the cover story was that it would allow all teams to compete? Well, your LCSs very well may be the two teams from the biggest market, one from the second, and one from the fourth. Good work all around. 

Aaron Judge is in a one-man race for home run immortality

Breaking Down Aaron Judge’s Historic Season

I bet it’d be the new divisive issue around steroids. Judge’s unblemished record when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, combined with the tainted résumés of the tainted sluggers with 62 home runs or better, will be on the table for continued discussions unless he hits 31 more home runs this season to best Bonds. It won’t be too different from whether those same admitted steroid users deserve induction into Cooperstown. McGwire, Bonds, and others timed out on the ballots before but still have the chance to get elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame through the veterans committee.

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By no means do I think Judge, the AL MVP favorite, is taking any banned substance, far from it. I truly believe it won’t come out later that the Yankees’ best player is gaining an unfair advantage. In between this season and the home-run chases at the turn of the century came baseball’s reckoning with steroids. Judge would be an idiot to even consider going down the lane that got so many greats in trouble over the last two decades, especially doing so in New York, where the spotlight couldn’t be bigger. 

That’s what makes No. 99’s chase for individual glory beyond appetizing. He plays home games in the Bronx. The Yankees are one of the most beloved and hated teams in North American sports, no doubt holding the top spot in baseball. Even the Astros horrid on-field cheating and off-diamond treatment of women doesn’t top the long-standing visceral hate for the Steinbrenner enterprises. The best and most marketable athlete playing for a franchise based in the largest media market in the country is trying to have one of the best power-hitting seasons ever.

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There’s no team in baseball with the pedigree of the Yankees. Hopefully, Judge’s greatness gets recognized as the overall New York record, and therefore he’ll be atop all of MLB minus the juicers, not separated by an old-or-new modifier to denote the difference in stadiums or how far the game has grown in the six decades since Maris set the record.

As Judge gets deeper into the season, especially if his clip of home runs doesn’t slow down, every at-bat will matter more. It’ll be like the chase for a no-hitter or perfect game with live look-ins every time the Yankees play. And nothing like Judge’s chase, with 60-plus home runs easily in the ballpark of possibilities, has happened since baseball’s steroid crackdown. Buckle up. 

Miguel Cabrera is why you don’t trade Juan Soto

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115 MPH. There have only been 15 homers in MLB all season hit at a 17-degree launch angle or lower. But the numbers aren’t needed to appreciate this seed that might have bored through someone’s intestines had everyone not just gotten out of the way and prayed it didn’t cause a crater in the Target Field bleachers. Hopefully, Jays fans get a full career’s worth of these kinds of moments. 

Josh Donaldson is the latest contestant on the ‘Gripe Is Right’

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The most publicly racist Yankee has become, rightfully, the most hated one. Currently slashing .223/.304/.693 with 10 homers and 38 RBI in 84 games played, Donaldson is severely below his career averages of .266/.363/.859, and the rancor over him batting fifth — ahead of new fan favorite, the anti-vaxxer known as Andrew “Benny” Benintendi — is reaching levels usually reserved for when the third baseman says something racist. (His first showing post-Gallo on Tuesday might quiet fans though, going 2-3 with a dinger and three RBI in an 8-6 loss to Seattle.)

However, the Gallo situation was so toxic that he wasn’t leaving his house for fear of being accosted by an angry Yankees supporter more pissed about the team’s perennial tyrant status being usurped by the Dodgers than the hole he was in the lineup.

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The pressure of playing in New York is nothing new. It’s often praised as if players sustaining a barrage of criticism from fans and the media is the ultimate test of character. I think of Gregg Popovich in situations like this, because he tailors his approach to each player, as not everyone responds positively to insults and screaming.

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Who knows what happened to Gallo this season — his approach is heavily dependent on capitalizing on contact, and as Deadspin staff writer Sam Fels wrote, whatever MLB did to the baseballs could be the reason he went from crushing balls out of the park to warning track power. Once a team that was on pace to have the AL wrapped up by September showed flaws during July, its first .500 month of the year, fans prone to overreacting during a lengthy (by their standards) World Series dry spell was going to call up the Michael Kay show and pontificate the ways in which Gallo was going to torpedo the playoffs.

So despite Don LaGreca’s accurate dismissal of callers’ concerns, saying Gallo isn’t going to be able to hurt the Yankees when he’s not on the roster or in the lineup, Pinstripe fanatics focused all of their ire on squashing any semblance of confidence the outfielder had. Whether it’s fair if Donaldson gets the same treatment — if anyone has earned an eternal Twitter dragging, it’s the guy who condescendingly, repeatedly called a Black player “Jackie” — is beside the point.

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The point is Yankees lovers are so freaking miserable, even during an incredible season, that they’d rather focus on what they don’t have rather than on Aaron Judge trying to best Roger Maris’ record for most home runs in a season by a Yankee and most home runs in a season by a non-juice head.

Judge is having the best contract year in the history of contract years, and that could be another reason for the Bronx’s displeasure. I’ve contended multiple times this season that these aren’t Hal’s father’s Yankees, as it’s insane the team hasn’t forked out a massive deal to its current face of the franchise the way it used to without a second thought.

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The Angels rebuffed the Yankees’ offer for the closest thing the game has seen to Babe Ruth since Babe Ruth, and the Padres won the Juan Soto sweepstakes. While it’s a certainty that New York can give Soto more money than San Diego can when he’s up for a lifetime contract in a couple of seasons, it’s not a guarantee that they can pay him more than L.A.

While driving around listening to MLB trade deadline radio Tuesday, a Dodgers caller sounded the most like Mikey from New Rochelle when he complained about a team that’s yet to reach the bottom of its pockets “cheaping out.”

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That kind of griping is what I expect out of an Evil Empire supporter, not some infantile obsession with Joey fucking Gallo.

Here’s where the losers of the Juan Soto sweepstakes stand now

Gallo stated earlier today that Yankees fans made him “feel like shit,” so he’ll be happy to have a fresh start in Chavez Ravine where his expectations will be lower than a limbo contest in hell. That said, if Gallo is the consolation prize in the Soto sweepstakes, then Dodgers fans should be drowning themselves in alcohol to help cope.

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In terms of what Soto would’ve brought to the table, the Dodgers were one of the teams that would’ve benefited least though. The Dodgers were already near the top of the league in terms of outfielder on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, strikeout rate, and walk rate. Soto would obviously be a massive upgrade for the Dodgers, but of each of the teams that were in the running for Soto, the Dodgers likely would have benefited the least in the long run.

St. Louis Cardinals

With Tyler O’Neill’s struggles, Harrison Bader’s injuries, and Albert Pujols’…everything, Soto would’ve been a huge get for the Birds. That said, the Cardinals can walk away from this Soto situation with their heads held high knowing they didn’t have to give up their future, didn’t land a massive name, and still improved more than their greatest divisional adversary, the Milwaukee Brewers.

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The Cardinals needed outfield help and starting pitching depth more than anything. While acquiring someone like Carlos Rodón (still possible, but unlikely) would’ve been preferred, the addition of José Quintana provides stability to a starting rotation that’s only had three people start more than ten games all season. Frankly, the Cardinals just needed someone who could eat innings and carry them over into the postseason. Seeing as how Quintana has pitched at least 150 innings in every full season since 2013 (except 2021), Quintana should be much-appreciated in St. Louis.

That’s beside the point though. The Cardinals have been in the middle of MLB among outfielder on-base percentage, walk rate, slugging, and weighted runs created-plus. However, since the start of June, Cardinals’ outfielders have ranked top-10 in nearly every category under the sun. That’s with O’Neill struggling as well as Bader and Yepez spending time on the IL.

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The Cardinals’ lineup is very top-heavy. The only great hitters in their lineup this year have been Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Brendan Donovan. As nuts as it is to say, Albert Pujols is one of only seven Cardinals with at least 50 games played and an OPS-plus of 100 or better. So, while the prospect of putting Soto at DH and letting O’Neill climb himself out of this rut he’s in may have been enticing, the Cardinals would’ve essentially been limiting one of their better bats this season to a platoon role. At the same time, putting Soto in the outfield would be a drastic downgrade defensively for a group that ranks third in Defensive WAR this season.

The Cardinals should be happy knowing they now have the clear-cut best bullpen in the NL Central. They’ve been on a tear and that added depth at starter and strong bullpen is going to pay off huge down the stretch. Losing out on Soto doesn’t change that.

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San Francisco Giants

Thank Christ the Giants didn’t make this trade. Do you know how braindead you’d have to be to make a trade for Soto when the core of your team is all past their prime, your farm system is pretty light, and your offense is weaker than an amputee sloth? Contrary to what several Giants fans might tell you, the team’s 107-win 2021 season is a distant memory at this point and it doesn’t look like it’s coming back any time soon. The Giants are more than a strong bat and a bullpen arm away from contending again.

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Thankfully, the Giants realized that they needed to be sellers after losing out on Soto. Already, the Giants have announced that All-Star Carlos Rodón is on the table to be traded.

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They also traded away underrated slugger Darin Ruf for J.D. Davis and a few prospects. That’s a good get.

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Plus, Trevor Rosenthal got traded. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know he had any value at all at this point in his career. So, if the Giants got anything for him…anything at all, good on their front office.

The Giants benefitted the most from losing out on Soto, because it showed the Giants’ front office that they can’t afford to keep pushing for a World Series with their aging core. They took a step back, looked in the mirror, and said “What are we even doing?” and, as a Giants fan myself, I am ever so grateful for that realization.

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San Francisco is linked heavily to Aaron Judge in free agency this offseason and while Judge is older, more expensive, and more prone to strikeouts, he wouldn’t cost the Giants any of their top prospects, which can’t be overstated for a team that has failed to reach expectations because they couldn’t get another 24 home runs and 90 RBIs from their 35-year-old shortstop. They’re currently under .500 and have been falling further and further from the playoff bubble every day since the start of June. This needed to happen.

Conclusion

According to OddsChecker US, the only team among the teams I just listed to have their World Series odds seriously affected by the trade was the St. Louis Cardinals, who fell from +3000 odds to +4000. The Giants were already long shots and stayed pretty much the same, and the Dodgers’ odds didn’t change at all, staying put at +380. Funny enough though, after the Dodgers acquired Gallo, their odds improved to +360. I’m sure that’ll make every Yankees fan scoff.

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While the Padres’ odds have jumped from +2000 to +800 with the trade, bettors don’t seem inclined to put money on the Friars. Since the trade was announced, only 6.1 percent of World Series bets have been placed on San Diego. That ranks fifth in MLB, and fourth in the National League, behind the likes of the Dodgers, Mets, and yes…the Cardinals. Perhaps the worries surrounding their rotational depth are pushing bettors away, but let it be known, the most improved team from this whole ordeal is undoubtedly the Padres. Don’t get it twisted.

Well, it wasn’t the massive haul we were expecting…

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Soto is the first player in league history 23 or younger to change teams midyear during the season he was an All-Star. The Dominican standout already has a bustling resume despite being first able to rent a car in America next October. Soto is a two-time Silver Slugger winner, a World Series champion, MVP runner-up, Home Run Derby champion, and is the youngest player to win a batting title in the National League.

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According to FanGraphs, Washington’s farm system jumps from 24th to No. 8 with its haul from San Diego. If Gore, a recent MLB call-up also counted, the Nats would enter the top five. The Padres have a three-game series against the Nationals next weekend in Washington, quite the quick homecoming for Soto. The Yankees, Rangers, and Cardinals also were also consistently mentioned as landing spots for Soto.

Soto joins Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado as huge bats playing in San Diego, a 3-4-5 lineup order no pitcher wants to see. The Padres also acquired the league’s saves leader, Josh Hader, from the Brewers on Monday. It’s easy to see: San Diego is going all-in on a World Series this year as it’ll be hard to keep the team’s core together for long with plenty of large contracts. Soto rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract from Washington last month.

Everyone's getting plunked — and this isn't MLB

How? How do you manage to accomplish something like this? This is literally the epitome of that one dude on TikTok who rants about potentially hitting orphans on the head. With the public perception of Jones, you have to imagine this was a worst-case scenario for the Giants’ signal-caller. Soon, he’s going to have Big Blue fans clamoring for Mike Glennon again. At least Glennon doesn’t “assault” disabled people. Shame on you Danny Dimes!

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However, Jones’ unfortunate mishap pales in comparison to what Jaguars’ rookie kicker Andrew Mevis did on Thursday morning. Kickers are already under a ton of scrutiny with so many struggling to make easy kicks nowadays. However, Mevis took these struggles to a whole new level, hitting former Dallas Cowboys head coach Dave Campo with a wildly missed field goal attempt.

Mevis wasn’t done there though.

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Mevis continued to send groups of people scattering like they were trying to find cover from cannon fodder while cowering inside the walls of a castle. He nearly wiped out team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan with a field goal.

After taking out a former head coach and nearly knocking a reporter off her feet, fans in attendance were weary of any kick off Mevis’ foot. As soon as his toes hit rubber, everyone in attendance collectively held their breath as they waited to see who Mevis’ next victim would be.

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Think about how badly you have to miss for that to happen. You have to be insanely, wildly, absurdly inaccurate to invoke this kind of fear in onlookers, and this is practice. There’s no pressure on the kicker to win a game or anything. There was pressure to impress seeing as how this was Mevis’ first stop in the NFL, but after such an awful showing, this will likely be his last. I just want to see the video, because these kicks must have been some brand of atrocious to cause groups of people to run away covering their heads.

This was a nightmare for Mevis, but it fits all too well for the Jaguars. Of course, their kicker has to have the most abysmal first week of camp. Even with Urban Meyer long gone at this point, kicking still remains a big problem. With Meyer, it was kickers getting kicked by coaches. Now, the kickers are taking revenge and hitting everyone in attendance to get back at the Jaguars’ organization. I guess the team should’ve known better. Once you mess with one kicker, you’ve messed with all of them.

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The Jaguars signed Elliott Fry to replace Mevis. Fry will now compete with former Panthers, Lions, and Titans kicker Ryan Santoso for the kicker spot. Santoso is 4-for-5 on field goals in his three-year NFL career. Fry is 3-of-4 on field goals in his NFL career, but he did go 14-for-14 as a member of the Orlando Apollos in the Alliance of American Football (AAF) in 2019 before the league shut down operations. As long as no more concussions are doled out though, I’m sure the Jaguars will be happy with whoever earns the job.

Mariners make splash in hopes of ending lengthy postseason drought

Castillo was the lone Reds representative at this year’s All-Star game and should be in the prime of his career at 29. He’s spent his entire six-season MLB career in Cincinnati. Seattle didn’t have pitching problems before bringing Castillo into the fold. The Mariners’ starting rotation has a 3.68 ERA, the seventh-best in the MLB. Castillo’s addition does give a win-now attitude from a franchise that’s never made a World Series since debuting in 1977.

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The AL West is Houston’s to lose. Second-place Seattle is a dozen games back. The Rangers, Athletics, and Angels clearly aren’t going to be a factor this season. That puts the Mariners squarely into one of the three Wild Card spots. That’s a dangerous game to play with one of the five postseason teams in each league handing in their jerseys after game No. 163. Yet, that’s better than the Mariners have done for most of the millennium.

Having longed to be back in the playoffs since fall 2001, the Mariners have the fourth-longest postseason drought of all time in North American sports. The longest streaks in the NBA and NHL are also active, but the Sacramento Kings and Buffalo Sabres 16 and 12 seasons respectively don’t touch Seattle. The longest MLB streak of all time is when the St. Louis Browns, now the Baltimore Orioles, didn’t make any postseason from 1903-44. The NFL record is shared by the now-Washington Commanders and Arizona Cardinals at a quarter-century apiece.

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The move for Castillo appears to be a new-age aggressive approach to end the miserable streak. There are five teams within four games of Seattle for the second Wild Card spot. A few bad series in a row and the Mariners would be far from controlling their own destiny. That’s why Seattle was aggressive. Better to have tried and lost, than not been active and fallen just short. 

The Giants reportedly won’t be sellers — here’s why they should be

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I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. Pederson and first baseman Brandon Belt are free agents at season’s end, while Rodon has a player option that kicked in after he threw his 110th inning, making him susceptible to leave this offseason. The Giants would be better off shipping those guys out, retooling their farm system with guys who will be ready by 2023, and looking ahead to next season. They’re not better than the Dodgers, Padres, Mets, Braves, Brewers, or Cardinals — so why try to force it?

One reason the Giants could be forcing it is the additional wild card spot the MLB added this past offseason. The Giants find themselves just four games out of the sixth and final wild-card spot, and feel that anything can happen come playoff time as long as you get in — just ask the 2019 Nationals.

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Obviously, I’m not in charge of the Giants — that’s Farhan Zaidi’s job — so I can’t make that decision for them. And even though I disagree, they probably will end up buyers over the next couple of days. Thus, here’s a look at some guys who they should go after.

One giant hole (no pun intended) in San Francisco’s roster that was rather amplified in their seven-game losing streak is left-handed relief pitching. Due to injuries and the struggles of Jake McGee, what the Giants once saw as a strength is now their greatest weakness. They’ve relied heavily on Sam Long and Jarlín García, and for most of the year, that worked out — both guys had sub-2.00 ERAs as recent as early July. But that didn’t last long (no pun intended).

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Long was on the mound for Cody Bellinger’s go-ahead 8th-inning grand slam last week (although none of those runs were earned due to an error that inning). He also allowed four earned runs over his two appearances against the Diamondbacks.

As for García, in his four appearances since the All-Star break, he’s allowed four earned runs in just two full innings of work. He’s raised his ERA almost a full point.

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But there’s good news for the Giants, as some of baseball’s best lefty relievers are up for grabs this trade deadline.

Possible trade targets

The first guy that comes to mind is one that I mentioned as an option for the Dodgers in Tigers’ reliever Andrew Chafin.

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Chafin has an ERA of 2.53 across his 32 innings of work, and has allowed a batting average of just .207 against him. He’s dominant against both righties and lefties, allowing a batting average of .191 to right-handed hitters, and .229 to lefties.

A second option that comes to mind is the Rangers’ Matt Moore. Moore, who’s pitching in his 11th season in the MLB, is playing in his first as a full-time reliever. And let’s just say it’s working.

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Moore has a 1.66 ERA across 48.2 innings, and has allowed opponents to hit just .192 against him. Similar to Chafin, he’s good against hitters on both sides of the plate, although he’s even more dominant against righties, and slightly less effective against left-handed hitters.

One final and potentially best option for the Giants could actually be a right-handed reliever. Aside from Friday night’s game against these Giants in which he gave up two earned runs, Cubs closer David Robertson has been virtually unhittable this year. He had given up just two earned runs in all of July, and entered Friday’s game with a 1.83 ERA.

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And what’s even more impressive about Robertson is how dominant he’s been against left-handed hitting. Including Friday night’s dud, he’s allowed a batting average of just .156 to lefties, which is even better than the .169 he’s given up to righties.

Even though the Giants got to him Friday, they should be scouting him a little extra during this four-game series, and could get one more opportunity to get a look at him Sunday — just in time for the Aug. 2 deadline.

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And speaking of these Cubs, the Giants have also gotten a pretty good look at their catcher and one of the hottest names this trade deadline, Willson Contreras. The Giants have struggled to get production out of the catcher position this season — Joey Bart is hitting .184, Curt Casali is hitting .231, and Austin Wynns is hitting .205.

Contreras, although expensive, would be a huge addition to the Giants’ lineup, and could help transition them a little more smoothly into the post-Buster Posey era. Contreras is slashing .252/.369/.460 this season, with 14 home runs and 37 RBI. Bart, Casali, and Wynns have a combined 11 home runs and 35 RBI on the year.

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The Giants could potentially put a package deal together for both Robertson and Contreras, in what could turn out to be the biggest move of the deadline if Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani stay put (although the Mariners may have taken that crown in the Luis Castillo deal).

So, are they buyers or sellers?

It’ll be interesting to see which way Zaidi and the Giants decide to go. I don’t think anyone would blame them for going in either direction. But if I had to guess whether they choose to become buyers or sellers with the trade deadline less than a week away — even if they’re better off looking ahead to next season — based on the history of the Giants and the track record of Zaidi, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll be adding a few pieces by early next week.

Explain to me how every MLB team can be a 'top suitor' for Juan Soto

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The Nationals’ have allegedly received so many “insane offers” that they must be drowning in prospects they can pick and choose. It’s got me thinking that one of two things will happen:

Scenario 1: Soto is traded away for far more than we originally thought. We thought he’d be worth an entire farm system, but if these many teams are interested and the frontrunner keeps rotating, then that must mean the auction keeps getting higher. The moment the metaphorical auctioneer starts saying “going once, twice” another buyer pops in and ups the ante. We all knew the baseline would be extreme, but you have to think that it’s getting out of hand at this point if these many teams are still in the running and a deal hasn’t been reached. Then, there’s the other, more likely, option:

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Scenario 2: With so many teams vying for Soto, the Nationals realize that Soto’s market won’t deteriorate if he stays with the team for the rest of the season. More time with Soto gives other teams more time to up their offers, and that might be a decent strategy for the Nationals. Early Wednesday, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo even stated during an interview with Audacy’s 106.7 The Fan that Washington can afford to be patient with his rights. They know that the market for Soto won’t diminish after the trade deadline passes and if he truly believes he can get more for him, why wouldn’t he wait?

The odds are that teams are lining up with offers, each better than the last. That bidding war might get put on hold once Aug. 2 comes and goes, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will get picked back up full force when trade negotiations are opened up again. Furthermore, holding onto Soto would only tell every team right now that their offers aren’t close to what the Nationals are looking for. That implied statement would give every team a chance to take a look in the mirror and come back with something monumentally better after months of not being able to negotiate. It’d be risky, but in this case, probably a very beneficial bargaining tactic.

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Contrary to what Sports Illustrated says, the Nationals are in no hurry to trade away their generational talent. The fact that so many teams are still rumored to be in on Soto is evidence that no matter how long they wait, a player of Soto’s age and talent level will always have an enormous trade market. There will come a time when his value will decrease due to the lack of time left on his contract, but that moment isn’t for another several months.

Of course, there’s volatility in playing the waiting game. Just like the stock market, holding on too long before selling can lead to missing out on the peak. Potential buyers could get impatient and back out. Soto could get hurt and destroy his value. The fact that so many teams are still coming in with improved offers seemingly every day is evidence enough that this is a game worth playing if you’re the Nats. I don’t expect him to be traded by the deadline.