Following a four-day break for the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the Mets begin the proverbial second half of the season tomorrow night when they host the San Diego Padres at Citi Field in a three-game series.
In actuality, the Mets have played over half of their 162-game regular season schedule. They are 58-35 and have a 2.5 game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves in the AL East. The 56-38 Braves begin a three-game series tomorrow at home versus the Los Angeles Angels.
This is the period of the MLB campaign when trades and trade rumors become as gripping and dominate baseball discourse as much as what is taking place on the field. The MLB trade deadline is Aug. 2. One of the central figures being discussed as a candidate likely to change teams is Juan Soto, the Washington Nationals uber talented outfielder nicknamed “Childish Bambino” for his prodigious ability.
Only 23, Soto already has won a batting title, hitting .351 in 2020. He finished second in the NL MVP voting last season, helped lead the Nationals to a World Series title in 2019 and won the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday. Simply put, he is one of the best players in the sport. Soto also clearly wants out of Washington and hinted the Mets are a team he would prefer to join.
“Playing in New York, against the Mets, I love it,” said Soto on Monday in Los Angeles where the All-Star events were being held. “I love to play against them and hit the ball far. If you see my numbers at [Citi Field], it’s amazing.”
It may be reading too deep into Soto’s professed affection for hitting in Queens, but the Mets’ front office, led by team owner Steve Cohen, must be elated in hearing him uninhibitedly speak about a franchise on the rise and at this juncture of the season a legitimate World Series contender. They should interpret it as a signal to explore the possibility of trading for Soto, who rejected a $350 million extension from the Nationals this past February and as first reported last week rebuffed a 15-year, $440 million offer from his current team earlier this month.
Soto has two more years of arbitration eligibility and could become a free-agent after the 2024 season. Conjecture abounds that the Mets, Dodgers and Yankees, teams with considerable financial resources, are at the top of the list to ultimately acquire Soto this season or in the near future. The Yankees already have Tuesday’s All-Star Game MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, under contract through the 2028 season for $175 million and will likely have to pay Aaron Judge well over $300 million to retain their best player when he hits the free-agent market this winter.
The Dodgers have outfielder Mookie Betts in the fold on a megadeal after he signed a 12-year, $365 million contract with them in July of 2020. The Mets also have a highly paid player in second baseman Francisco Lindor, who inked a massive 10-year, $341 million agreement on March 31 of last year. But none of those huge financial obligations dissuade any of those teams from pursuing Soto if they deem him to be a viable addition.