The moment it was reported that Juan Soto was turning down Washington’s 15-year, $440 million deal, the writing was all over the Nationals’ left field wall—the outstanding player’s time in the nation’s capital was running out. Baseball fans and card collectors just didn’t know when the hour would come that he would swap uniforms.
That news finally came out on August 2, when a deal sending Soto and fellow Washington slugger Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres for a bushel of young talent became public. When a move as league altering as that happens, the ramifications can be felt for years.
But the hobby doesn’t have that long to wait. We need to know who benefits from the big move right now. That’s precisely why we’ve gone ahead and broken down the obvious (and not-so-obvious) players whose cards should see a bump over the next few months now that the Soto Sweepstakes has come to a close.
Though Soto is a once-in-a-decade talent who checks every conceivable box, the 2022 season has not been his greatest year. Yes, he’s slugged 21 long ones and won the Home Run Derby, but his OPS and OBP are the lowest they’ve been in three seasons. Soto’s current batting average is way off its usual pace, too. We’re going to blame some of this on the Nationals’ flimsy roster. Pitchers weren’t giving the dude much to swing at. The Padres roster has a bit more pop. Opposing rotations won’t be able ignore Soto because he’ll be surrounded by Bell, Manny Machado and, eventually, a healthy Fernando Tatis Jr.
With his numbers likely going up — being in the middle of a postseason push certainly won’t hurt, either — collectors will give the young star even more attention. His coveted 2018 Topps Chrome Update PSA 10 was selling for around $210 right before the trade announcement. The first few sales after it were already up to $250. Imagine where things are headed once we get to September/October and the Padres are on the L.A. Dodgers’ heels.
We could have easily put Machado’s high-profile teammate in this slot. But with Tatis Jr., who’s been sidelined since a March ’22 wrist surgery, back from injury in the next few weeks, there’s some organic buzz around his cards already. In Machado’s case, even with his stellar stat line (18 HRs, 57 RBI, .293 BA), his rookie cards haven’t moved the needle much. His essential first-year card is his 2013 Topps. Its current $50-60 range hasn’t budged much in the past few months, even though he’s consistently been San Diego’s best player. Standing next to Soto in team pictures and on the lineup card can’t do anything but help Machado’s position with the casual collector. On top of all that, if the talented third baseman keeps going how he is, another 30-homer season and Gold Glove will be within reach.
The New Nationals
Okay, so we’re cheating a little with this one. The reason for that is because we couldn’t decide which young Nat would benefit most from the move. In the case of James Wood, Washington gets a 6’7” outfielder who some salivating scouts are comparing to hall of famer Willie McCovey. Without more established vets in his way, the coast could be clear for Wood to take up root in the Nats’ outfield. To prepare for that inevitability, you’ll want to get your hands on one of his 2022 Bowman Sapphire Edition Chrome Prospects (around $20 raw) or 2022 Bowman Chrome Prospect Auto ($120 raw).
Keep with the Bowman theme for CJ Abrams, a sensational shortstop who’s been forced to sit behind Tatis Jr. on the Padres’ depth chart. Abrams’ 2019 Bowman Draft Chrome PSA 10 is going between $20-30 today, a far cry from the $70 it got back in May when whispers of his hitting prowess and speed started spreading. Like with Wood, the move to DC gives Abrams a clearer path to more playing time. An increased workload means better stats. Better stats mean more hobby attention. More hobby attention, well, we all know what that means.
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