What should the San Diego Padres do with Juan Soto, who is due for free agency after the 2024 season?
When the San Diego Padres acquired Juan Soto at the trade deadline in 2022, it was arguably one of the largest deals in the history of the franchise.
The Padres mortgaged the future for a burgeoning superstar in the prime of his career. James Wood, Robert Hassell, and Jarlin Susana all produced at the minor league level in 2023 for the Nationals, while C.J. Abrams and MacKenzie Gore were productive in their first taste of Major League Baseball at a full-time level. The Padres paid a hefty price for Soto.
We are at a point now where Juan Soto is 12 months away from free agency. The Padres can hold on to him for the 2024 season or possibly trade him, as his value is still ample right now. Teams wouldn’t pay the hefty price the Padres did last season, as he has one and a half fewer years on his contract, but you can be sure he still has plenty of value on the market.
What will A.J. Preller and the Padres do this winter?
On Wednesday, Preller spoke to the media and proclaimed the “first path” with Juan Soto was to possibly work out an extension. The GM not not rule out a possible trade, though, saying, “We’ve never been a group that says no to anything. I wouldn’t read into that. That’s just kind of the way we operate.”
The Padres look poised to sign this outfielder this winter, but nothing is guaranteed. We all know that Scott Boras wants Juan Soto to reach free agency. The power agent intends to hold all the cards as the team would then have the right to negotiate with every major league team for his services.
At this point, the Padres are the only team able to negotiate with Juan Soto on a long-term deal.
So what will the Padres do?
Let’s explore their options.
Trade Soto now while there is still value
The roster is full of players who make top dollar. Three men have deals in excess of 10 years with the Padres. They simply cannot afford another costly contract and shouldn’t go that route.
Word is spreading that the Padres want to cut $50 million from their existing payroll, and signing Juan Soto seems foolish. In the last year of his arbitration years, Soto will make slightly higher than the $23 million he made last season for the Padres. By trading him, you slash half of the required amount to move forward comfortably. It will be difficult, but the Padres are too committed to their future payroll to take on another massive contract.
The Padres would probably receive a few prospects for Soto. Maybe even a young major leaguer who is inexpensive. Saving money would be the key to any deal of Juan Soto. The Padres would prefer to deal him for players who are making the league minimum. The fan base may not like this idea, but you have to trust Preller that he will be able to find productive young players who complement the current roster.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it must be done.
Extend him. He cannot leave San Diego
Pairing Juan Soto with Fernando Tatis Jr. for the next decade or so would give the Padres stability. Something they deeply need. Both men are 24, and surely their best years in the game of baseball are ahead of them. This duo could carry the Padres into the playoffs year after year. They would also put butts in the seats as both are superstars in the sport. It is a win-win situation for the Friars.
The price for Soto would be excessive, but these aren’t your father’s Padres. They have cash to spend and could easily afford the duo. The current payroll is a bit complicated, but the Padres can find a way to keep both men on the roster. If it means dealing a current high-profile player- then so be it. Soto and Tatis are the future, and the team needs to build around them.
Those concerned about the defense and foot speed of Juan Soto are just nitpicking. His speed will never increase, but he is not a slug on the base paths. Soto stole 12 bases this season and proved that he can swipe a bag when needed. Regarding the defense- his main concern is in route running and recognition of the ball off the bat. Those skills can improve in time with a lot of hard work. Expect Soto to still be serviceable in the outfield well into his 30’s.
Pay the man. He is worth it.
The Padres will do all they can to secure Juan Soto. You have to believe that.
However, the ball is not in their court. The slugger will need to want to return to San Diego. His agent, Scott Boras, will insist he gets the best offer. Do not expect any kind of discount to remain with the Padres. They will need to pay top dollar to retain his services. It is unknown what Soto’s real feelings are about the city. Does he want to settle here for over a decade?
The two sides will negotiate this winter. The Padres will likely not want this leaking into the 2024 season. A.J. Preller is aggressive with his movements, so one would expect something significant either way. If the Padres sign Soto, the trickle-down effect will come in some roster slashing. If they trade him this winter, expect the Padres to land a few young players or prospects with decent upside.
This will be an exciting winter for several reasons. Juan Soto is one of the first priorities for the Padres this offseason. What will they do?
James was born and raised in America’s Finest City. He is a passionate baseball fan with even more passion towards his hometown Padres. Editor-In-Chief of EastVillageTimes.com. Always striving to bring you the highest quality in San Diego Sports News. Original content, with original ideas, that’s our motto. Enjoy.