Step Five: Move Juan Soto To First Base and Acquire a Starting Outfielder
Juan Soto is an outstanding young talent and hopefully will be a Washington Nationals for years to come. Despite hitting just around .250 to start this season, Soto has shown signs of improvement in the past few days at the plate, and overall he will recover and be the outstanding hitter he was last season.
At just 20-years-old Soto will learn how to become a better hitter as he matures and grows in his career, and will only get better than we have seen him to date. Soto is very good at so many things, but one of those is not his defense. This season Soto has a -5 defensive runs saved average and a -17 defensive runs saved per 1,200 innings.
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The 20-year-old outfielder has not improved statistically defensively at all since his rookie season in 2018, and if you watch Soto on a nightly basis he is good for one or two head-scratching plays in the outfield a week.
Now part of this is due to Soto being young. Typical young defenders do struggle in the outfield, and it takes time to become a good Major League defender. But the Nationals are in an intriguing spot where they can move Soto and help their team in more ways than one.
Moving Soto to first base would a) help him extend his career by not taking as much wear and tear ad he would in the outfield, b) help Washington become an overall better defensive team. With Washington likely being completely out of playoff contention as early as the middle of June, the Nationals can get an extended look at Soto at first base in meaningless games the rest of this season.
Soto could get 50-60 games of experience at first before having the entire offseason to work on learning the position. If he fails in these games, who cares. It is a chance for him to get a head start on the learning process.
In the offseason, Washington can let the long-time face of the franchise Ryan Zimerman go, or bring him back on a team-friendly deal to be Soto’s backup. The 2020 free agent class has some interesting outfield prospects in Marcell Ozuna, Yasiel Puig, Billy Hamilton, and Starling Marte who could all help the Nationals offensively and defensively.
There is also the trade market where Washington could look to acquire a corner outfielder in the fall. Whatever way they go about it, moving Soto to first base would help the team in more ways than one.