CLEVELAND — Asked about the trade market for Washington Nationals star Juan Soto, Joel Sherman of The New York Post and MLB Network mentioned some of the obvious candidates: the St. Louis Cardinals, the Seattle Mariners, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.
But when asked about any potential dark horse candidates, Sherman noted two: the Cleveland Guardians and the Tampa Bay Rays.
"I would even think of small market teams. I think of Cleveland and Tampa Bay," Sherman said during an appearance on the MLB Network on Monday. "They have the prospects. There's a door open to make the playoffs this year. They have the future years. And because you have him for future years, if for any of those years, they feel their payroll is off, or they're not going to make the playoffs, they could trade him again and recoup a lot of the prospect collateral that they'd give up here."
Whether the Guardians can trade for Soto and whether they should are two different questions.
When it comes to the former, there's little doubt that Cleveland could pull off such a trade.
With eight prospects ranked in MLB Pipeline's most recent top 100, few teams would be better suited to put together a package full of highly touted youngsters than the Guardians currently are. Between pitcher Daniel Espino, outfielder George Valera, infielders Gabriel Arias and Brayan Rocchio, as well as a handful of MLB-ready players, the reality is that Cleveland has plenty of flexibility in how it could structure such a deal.
But while the prospect of acquiring the 23-year-old Soto -- who still has 2.5 years of team control remaining on his contract -- is certainly an appealing one, it's also fair to question how much closer he would bring the Guardians to winning a World Series. And if the two-time All-Star isn't the missing piece, would Cleveland be better off just keeping its talent-rich farm system intact to help extend its window?
These are difficult questions with no clear-cut answers. But they're also questions that Sherman thinks the Guardians -- and every other team in the league -- should be asking themselves.
"He is the kind of player because of age, period and control period that pretty much any team can and probably should be interested to call the Nationals and say, 'What does it take?'" he said.