Hypothetical: Soto or Ohtani?
We all know the Nationals are shopping around Soto, and now the Angels have said they'll listen on Ohtani? But, who'd be better to get?
A 23-year-old outfielder currently on the Washington Nationals, Juan Soto has been one of the best players in the MLB since be broke into the league in 2018 after completely skipping the Triple-A level. Since breaking into the league, Soto has in over 90% of his teams games, while putting up the following numbers:
561 Games, 2423 PA's, 1945 AB's, .291/.426/.538 (.964 OPS/159 OPS+/154 wRC+), 566 Hits, 108 Doubles, 9 Triples, 118 Home Runs, 357 RBI's, 37 Stolen Bases (14 Times Caught), 457 Walks, 413 Strikeouts, +20.9 bWAR/+21.2 fWAR
Yes. In an era of baseball where pitchers are throwing harder and collecting more strikeouts, Juan Soto has a positive walk-to-strikeout (BB:K) rate. That's unheard of in today's game. In a down-2022 season, he's been putting up the following numbers:
97 Games, 420 PA's, 333 AB's, .243/.400/.480 (.880 OPS/154 OPS+/147 wRC+), 81 Hits, 17 Doubles, 1 Triple, 20 Home Runs, 45 RBI's, 5 Stolen Bases (2 Times Caught), 84 Walks*, 61 Strikeouts, +3.3 bWAR/+2.4 fWAR
Yes. In a year where Soto has a .242 BABIP (which is far below his career BABIP of .314), he still has an OBP in the 400's. Just 5 other players in the entire MLB have an OBP at or above .400 (Goldschmidt, Alvarez, Diaz, Arraez, and Freeman). Just imagine if he had a little bit better BABIP how much better his numbers would look!
Side-Note: AHHHHHH! THE YANKEES COULD'VE HAD FREDDIE FREEMAN. He's been worth +4.3 bWAR/+4.6 fWAR this season with a .323/.401/.538 (.939 OPS/159 OPS+/162 wRC+) extended triple-slash. Anthony Rizzo- who is a fine ballplayer- has been worth +1.7 bWAR/+1.8 fWAR with a .222/.342/.486 (.828 OPS/135 OPS+/134 wRC+). It's not even a question. Freeman is so much better.
It should also be noted that Juan Soto also comes with another 2 years of control after the 2022 season, which means he'd be anything but a rental piece.
Now, there are some negatives with Soto. Outside of a low batting average this year (which isn't much of a concern; he's hit over .300 in July), there is no guarantee that he's going to be around after his arbitration years. As a Scott Boras client there are concerns that he will hold out until he's a free agent before signing onto a long-term deal. While I personally think that if he got offered a $500+ Million contract (over 15 years) he would take it, nobody will know until he gets offered that amount. I'd also make it a near requirement that Soto would be signing an extension if I was to trade for him.
A 27-year-old right-handed pitcher and designated hitter currently on the Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani may be the best individual player in baseball. There are many college players who can manage to pitch and hit effectively, but nobody in the history of the sport has done what Shohei Ohtani is able to do currently. Since he broke into the MLB in 2018 (after 5 years in the NPB), he has hit to the following numbers:
505 Games, 2019 PA's, 1758 AB's, .262/.352/.527 (.879 OPS/137 OPS+/134 wRC+), 461 Hits, 89 Doubles, 17 Triples, 114 Home Runs, 306 RBI's, 66 Stolen Bases (24 Times Caught), 237 Walks, 537 Strikeouts, +11.9 bWAR/+11.5 fWAR
He has also pitched to the following numbers:
52 Games, 22 Wins (11 Losses), 3.28 ERA (130 ERA+, 78 ERA-), 3.18 FIP, 283.0 Innings Pitched, 367 Strikeouts (11.7 K/9), 97 BB (3.1 BB/9), 217 Hits, 1.110 WHIP, +8.1 bWAR/+7.2 fWAR
It is amazing that Shohei Ohtani has been a very effective starting pticher while also hitting at a level that far exceeds even the normal good player. It's especially amazing because Ohtani has shown in 2021 that he can hit at the top of the league (he had a .965 OPS) and he is showing in 2022 that can pitch amazingly (he had a 2.81 ERA). Just this year, here are his numbers:
96 Games, 413 PA's, 358 AB's, .254/.349/.486 (.835 OPS/134 OPS+/132 wRC+), 91 Hits, 16 Doubles, 2 Triples, 21 Home Runs, 59 RBI's, 11 Stolen Bases (6 Times Caught), 49 Walks, 96 Strikeouts, +1.8 bWAR/+1.9 fWAR
He has also pitched to the following numbers:
17 Games, 9 Wins (6 Losses), 2.81 ERA (142 ERA+, 72 ERA-), 2.37 FIP, 99.1 Innings Pitched, 145 Strikeouts (13.1 K/9), 23 BB (2.1 BB/9), 78 Hits, 1.017 WHIP, +3.1 bWAR/+3.3 fWAR
In 2022, Shohei Ohtani has taken a step back as a hitter, but has balanced that out while improving his numbers as a pitcher. I do expect that this will be a common flip-flop during the remainder of Shohei Ohtani's career as he'll focus more on where he was worse from the year before during the offseason.
Ohtani has one more year after this season under contract before he becomes a free agent.
Ohtani is also not the perfect perfect fit for the Yankees. He can't- or at least shouldn't- be used in the outfield in order to keep him fresh and healthy as a pitcher (which they do need) and on his off-days from pitching it would be difficult to find him DH time around the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Matt Carpenter, Anthony Rizzo, Josh Donaldson, and...well...the entire team spending some off-time there as well.
The Pick is In:
There's one clear answer.
He is around for longer, is younger, and would fit the team much better. I'd also be banking on a long-term extension happening with Soto. He also hasn't been hurt much at all in his career.
Getting Ohtani would cost a lot more to not be able to use him as a true two-way star (thanks to the DH position being filled) and other pitchers at a similar ability could be available for much less. Keep in mind, Ohtani also purposefully chose to not play for the Yankees while he was doing his "tour" before the 2018 season. Ohtani also has an injury history after spending the entire 2019 season and all but 1.2 innings of the 2020 season on the mend from pitching.
Sell the farm.