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Will Juan Soto sign MLB’s first $500 million deal? Four reasons why new Padres star could hit milestone

Will Juan Soto sign MLB's first $500 million deal? Four reasons why new Padres star could hit milestone

Juan Soto, now of the San Diego Padres, is no longer the story of the 2022 MLB trade deadline. That is because the 2022 MLB trade deadline has passed. Soto, however, remains the story. He’s the story in large measure because of what he means to the San Diego lineup and their postseason hopes. He’s also the story on account of the very real possibility that he will eventually become baseball’s first $500 million man. 

Whether Soto threatens or surpasses that once unimaginable mark via free agency or contract extension with San Diego remains to be determined, but regardless of the specific path he takes he has a real chance at fetching a guarantee of, yes, half a billion dollars (or more!). If your baseball fandom dates back several years, then that’s a pretty stunning premise – one that perhaps merits further exploration. Let’s do just that and explore the reasons why Soto may soon make MLB salary history on a massive scale. 

1. Soto is a rare hitter

Soto this season is batting .246/.408/.485 with 21 home runs and an MLB-leading 91 walks in 101 games. For his career, he now owns a slash line of .291/.427/.538 across parts of five big-league seasons. He’s also put up an on-base percentage of .400 or greater in every season of his career thus far, which occasions this: 

Even more impressive is that Soto has authored these numbers despite playing his home games in a ballpark that suppresses offense. Look at OPS+, which corrects for ballpark and league influences, and we find that Soto for his career has a park-adjusted OPS of 160, which means it’s 60 percent better than the league-average of 100. This puts him in elite company among players age-23 or younger with a minimum of 500 games played: 

Ted Williams

190

Ty Cobb

171

Mike Trout

169

Juan Soto

160

Eddie Mathews

157

Mickey Mantle

156

Jimmie Foxx

154

Mel Ott

153

Rogers Hornsby, Arky Vaughn

150

Yes, Soto’s career OPS+ of 160 is the fourth-highest ever for a player age-23 or younger and a minimum of 500 games played. Peruse the list above and you’ll find that the only players on it who aren’t presently Hall of Famers are Mike Trout and Soto. Enviable company, that. 

His exceptional contact skills and mastery of the strike zone also suggest he’ll age well as a hitter. Even though he hits for power and puts up excellent exit-velocity numbers, Soto has many more walks – 464 total – than strikeouts – 412. Not surprisingly, he’s in the…

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