A player like Juan Soto is rare.
The comparisons to Ted Williams are real.
Soto is due for free agency after the coming season, and it does not appear the Padres will be able to secure him long-term. Reports indicate that the Padres are trying to make it work with the slugging outfielder, but his side is adamant about testing the open market. Scott Boras is the outfielders’ agent, and the master negotiator wants the largest payday.
There is still time for the Padres to negotiate with Soto, but there is a sense time is running out.
In 2023, Juan Soto produced a decent season for the Padres. His .930 OPS and 158 OPS+ are well above the league average. However, the outfielder’s strikeout rate went up to 18.2 percent. His defensive issues were also evident from time to time, as Soto seems to consistently take bad angles on balls of the bat. He does not have excellent speed, so tracking the ball incorrectly only makes him look subpar in the outfield.
Let’s face the facts. Juan Soto will not be paid for his defense. He is a hitting machine and only 25 years old.
The Padres already have a 25-year-old superstar in Fernando Tatis Jr. Pairing the two together is the obvious answer for long-term success for the San Diego Padres.
Tatis is already signed through the 2034 season, when he will be 35. The Padres must do everything necessary to secure Juan Soto for that same period of time. This duo would provide a left and right-handed hitting tandem in the middle of the lineup for the next decade. That is something special. That is something that should deliver sustained success for the Padres.
Securing Soto will be difficult for the Padres, though, with their current payroll. Last winter, the team foolishly signed Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year/$280 million deal. Not that Bogaets isn’t a quality player, but the Padres knew they had Juan Soto approaching free agency. The team also handed Jake Cronenworth a seven-year/$80 million extension and gave Yu Darvish a six-year/$108 million deal to keep the veteran from exploring free agency this winter.
That sum of money ($468 million) would probably not be enough to secure Soto, but it would be very close. Especially when you factor Soto will have some opt-outs in his new contract, and the value should only be around $150-200 million for the first five of six years. Then, the slugger will likely explore free agency at around the age of 30 as he opts out.
The Padres need to get very creative with their finances. Virtually the whole staff are free agents this winter (Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Nick Martinez), as Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove are the only returners at this point. And both veteran pitchers missed the end of the season with arm woes. They will need to sign some free-agent pitches this winter as the minor leagues will not bear enough fruit to maintain three starting jobs in the majors.
This winter may be the most difficult offseason for A.J. Preller and his staff as the general manager is on the hot seat. A new manager will be at the helm for the Padres in 2024, and the team needs a huge season to save face. Wallowing at around the .500 mark in winning percentage will only infuriate the fan base further. They expect results.
A lot of question marks plague the Padres as they attempt to compete in the coming year.
Signing Juan Soto is a top priority for the Padres, as it should be.
For the Padres, having Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis as the core of your ballclub for the next decade will certainly keep the fans engaged in the franchise. The Padres must do everything in their power to make this happen. If it means shaking up the roster and dealing high-priced talent- then so be it.
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.