If the Los Angeles Dodgers choose to play their most valuable card, the St. Louis Cardinals stand no chance in the Juan Soto trade chase, even though they’re currently positioned among the likely favorites.
As the MLB trade deadline actually approaches — Seriously! It’s like Christmas! — the Dodgers appear to be sneaking their way into the fringes (or perhaps even the center) of the race to get a blockbuster Soto deal done before the clock expires. The presumed favorites entering the week were the Cards and Padres, though St. Louis’ case seems to be weakening by the minute as the Dodgers’ argument gets stronger.
For one thing, St. Louis’ best offerings are Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson, young big-leaguers whose clocks have already begun ticking. Carlson will be arbitration eligible in 2024 and controlled through 2026. Does that align with the Nationals’ timeline? Or would they prefer a seemingly endless supply of younger lottery tickets?
More importantly, though, the Dodgers dominate the Cardinals in one specific area: pitching depth, at every level of the minors.
As Jeff Passan did a fantastic job outlining in his Monday column (subscription required), Los Angeles can realistically offer Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, and Landon Knack in an aggressive offer and still have an impressive group (including 2021 first-rounder Maddux Bruns and Clayton Beeter) at the lower levels, as well as Dustin May, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urías in the rotation long-term. St. Louis? Their ace Adam Wainwright is retiring, Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas hit free agency after 2023, and there are very few names in line to replace them, especially if the Cards strip things bare for Soto.
Dodgers can use rotation chips to get aggressive in Juan Soto chase
If the Nationals decide they have no interest in big-league-ready pieces and would prefer arm after arm after arm, the Dodgers are the team to beat here, and the Cardinals stand no chance. Add in the familiarity from last summer’s last-minute Trea Turner/Max Scherzer splurge, and Los Angeles seems well-positioned to get a stunning deal done.
That’s if a deal even gets done, though.
Even as the Dodgers get more aggressive than ever with the finish line in sight, they’re still only one of three teams earnestly in the chase right now. The Mariners just surrendered their Soto package for Luis Castillo. The Yankees keep checking in, but probably aren’t viewed as serious suitors at the moment … but what if Aaron Judge leaves this offseason and there’s suddenly a Soto-sized hole on their depth chart? That could result in the overpay of all overpays.
The Dodgers can move as aggressively as they want, but they can’t eliminate the Nats’ desire to increase the applicant pool.
If this really is a three-horse race between LA, San Diego, and St. Louis, the Dodgers can piece together the best Soto package. Why settle now when January could be twice as appealing, though?