Analysis: Washington Nationals not likely to get much back in return for Juan Soto

(© Sean Gladwell –

Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo got nothing when Bryce Harper left as a free agent in 2019. But if history is a guide, he’s likely to get little more than nothing if he tries to trade Juan Soto ahead of him bolting for greener pastures.

I spent some time today looking over the details of six young star-for-prospects trades dating back to the 2007 deal that sent future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera from Florida to Detroit.

None of those deals worked out at all for the teams trying to get a return for a soon-to-be-departing star.

2007: Marlins trade Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo and Dallas Trahern

Cabrera was 24 when Florida tried to flip him for prospects, throwing Willis into the deal to get Detroit to take on the back end of his deal, as Rizzo might want to do if he does end up trading Soto by throwing in the last two years of the Patrick Corbin deal, or the last four of the Stephen Strasburg millstone.

Cabrera had put up big numbers as a Marlin, hitting 138 homers, with a .313/.388/.542 slash line.

In Detroit, Cabrera won AL MVP awards in 2013 and 2014, hit nine postseason homers, and has become a member of the 3,000-hit/500-homer club, and 50.3 WAR as a Tiger.

Badenhop was 13-15 with a 4.34 ERA in four seasons in Florida, with 1.8 WAR.

De La Cruz pitched nine innings in 2008 for the Marlins (with a -0.9 WAR) before brief stops in San Diego and Milwaukee, and was out of baseball by 2011.

Maybin had longevity, playing 15 seasons with 10 different teams. His four seasons in Florida had a .255/.328/.375 slash line and 2.7 WAR.

Miller eventually became a two-time All-Star reliever, but that was after he left Florida, for whom he pitched for three seasons, going 10-20 in 58 games, 41 as a starter, with a 5.89 ERA, and -2.5 WAR.

Rabelo played 34 games in 2008 for Florida, with a .202/.256/.294 slash line, and -0.2 WAR.

Trahern never played in the big leagues.

Final accounting: Cabrera gave 50.3 WAR to Detroit, Florida got 0.9 WAR in return.

Big win there for the Tigers in this one.

2010: Padres trade Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox for Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Rey Fuentes, and Eric Patterson

Gonzalez was on the verge of hitting the market at age 28, and the San Diego ownership at the time was on the frugal side, so flipping a guy who had hit 161 homers with a .288/.374/.514 slash line made sense, according to the conventional wisdom.

Gonzalez only stayed in Boston for parts of two seasons before the Sox moved him in a trade to the Dodgers.

In his brief time in Boston, Gonzalez hit 42 homers with a .321/.382/.513 slash line and 9.9 WAR.

Kelly made eight starts and one relief appearance for the Padres over parts of two seasons, with a 2-5 record and 6.69 ERA, with -1.2 WAR.

Rizzo played 49 games in San Diego (with one homer and a .141/.281/.242 slash line) before being traded to the Cubs and then going from Chicago to the Yankees.

His career WAR is currently at 38.6, but he was worth -0.4 WAR in his brief time in San Diego.

Fuentes played in 23 games in San Diego in 2013, with a .152/.222/.152 slash line, and -0.3 WAR.

Patterson played 47 games for the Padres in 2011, with two homers and a .180/.272/.292 slash line, and -0.3 WAR.

Final accounting: Boston got 9.9 WAR out of Gonzalez, and San Diego got -2.2 WAR in return.

Win for Boston there.

2017: Marlins trade Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers

Stanton was 27 and coming off a 59-homer season in 2017 when the pinny-pinching Marlins threw the Yankees a lifeline.

Stanton only played 41 games combined in 2019-2020 as he battled injuries, but he’s been a contributor when he’s been in the lineup, with 104 homers and a .263/.347/.511 slash line, and 9.8 WAR.

Castro had two productive seasons in Miami, with 34 homers and a .274/.314./.418 slash line, and 2.8 WAR.

Guzman pitched in 2.2 innings in three games in 2020-2021 for Miami, with -0.4 WAR.

Devers got 44 at bats in Miami last year, slashing .244/.304/.317, with -0.2 WAR.

Final accounting: New York has gotten 9.8 WAR, Miami got 2.2 WAR.

Win for the Yankees here, and the gap is only going to widen.

2018: Diamondbacks trade Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals for Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver and Andrew Young

Goldschmidt was 30 when Arizona decided to flip him to St. Louis for prospects. The first baseman had hit 209 homers with a .297/.398/.532 slash line, two Gold Gloves and 39.9 WAR in eight seasons in the desert.

In four years in St. Louis, Goldschmidt has hit 91 homers with a .290/.374/.510 slash line, with a Gold Glove and 15.5 WAR.

Kelly has been a good contributor for Arizona at catcher, with 40 homers and a .232/.319/.419 slash line in 291 games, and 3.7 WAR.

Weaver is 9-19 with a 4.75 ERA in 38 starts and eight relief appearances in Arizona, with -0.5 WAR.

Young appeared in 70 games in 2020-2021 for the D’backs, with seven homers, 19 RBI and .205/.319/.462 slash line, and -0.9 WAR.

Final accounting: St. Louis has gotten 15.5 WAR from Goldschmidt, Arizona has gotten 2.3 WAR in return.

Big win for St. Louis here.

2020: The Red Sox trade Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong

Price was a salary dump add-on here. Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, had hit 139 homers, stolen 126 bases and slashed .301/.374/.519 in Boston, with four Gold Gloves and 42.2 WAR over six seasons heading into his age-27 season.

In three years in LA, Betts has hit 59 homers and stolen 26 bases with a .271/.359/515 slash line, with one Gold Glove and 10.6 WAR.

Verdugo has hit 25 homers with a .284/.340/.420 slash line in Boston, with 3.9 WAR.

Downs just got to the big leagues, and in eight games (as of this writing) has a .136/.167/.136 slash line, and -0.3 WAR.

Wong has gotten 22 at bats over the past two seasons, with a .250/.273/.400 slash line, and 0.2 WAR.

Final accounting: LA has gotten 10.6 WAR from Betts, and Boston has gotten 3.8 WAR in return.

Win for the Dodgers here.

2021: The Rockies trade Nolen Arenado to the Cardinals for Austin Gomber, Mateo Gil, Elehuris Montero, Tony Locey and Jake Sommers

Arenado was approaching his age-30 season when he was moved from Colorado, where he had hit 235 homers with a .293/.349/.541 slash line and won eight Gold Gloves at first base, with 40.1 WAR.

In two seasons in St. Louis, Arenado has hit 52 homers with a .268/.329/.505 slash line, and he won another Gold Glove last season, with 9.0 WAR.

Gomber has gone 14-16 with a 5.19 ERA in 38 starts and two relief appearances in Colorado, with 0.3 WAR.

Gil, Locey and Sommers haven’t yet reached the big leagues.

Montero has gotten 35 at bats this season with the Rockies, slashing .176/.200/.235, with -0.2 WAR.

Final accounting: The Cardinals have gotten 9.0 WAR, the Rockies have gotten 0.1 WAR in return.

Big win for Colorado here.