San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller made the move of the 2022 MLB trade deadline by acquiring left-handed slugger Juan Soto.
Such a trade came at a heavy cost for two and half seasons of control of one of the game’s most talented hitters. The splash led the Friars to the NLCS in 2022 and is paying dividends at the plate this year as well. As the 2023 season comes to a close and Soto is one year away from hitting free agency and cashing in what will be one of the biggest contracts in sports history, some are suggesting the Padres should trade him.
Sending away one of the best hitters in baseball is not in the Padres’ best interest.
San Diego is committed to winning now, and having a bat like Soto gives you the best chance to do so.
Juan Soto has suited up for the Padres in all 153 games thus far, dependability you don’t always see from superstars around the league. In a talented lineup, Soto has stood out. He leads the Padres in home runs, RBIs, OBP, SLG, and walks, leading the National League for the third consecutive season. His .267/.405/.504 slash with 32 home runs and 101 RBI will garner most valuable player votes for the fourth time in his six MLB seasons.
Not much has gone right for the Padres in 2023. That can not be said about Soto, including the biggest plague of the Padres, hitting in the key spots.
In addition to leading the Padres in runs batted in, Soto has delivered in clutch moments. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, Soto owns a .321 AVG and .999 OPS. In scenarios that are considered “late and close,” his average dipped to .296, but his OPS is a bolstering 1.049.
Patient at the plate but lethal with the stick, Soto is exactly what the Padres need next season. His 54.4% hard-hit rate, the highest of his career, and 16.9% chase rate, both rank in the 98th percentile amongst all MLB hitters. He is swinging at strikes and hitting rockets, the kind of hitter you want providing run support for Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, not facing them.
Could the Padres bolster its farm system by getting younger players in return? Definitely.
Can Padres owner Peter Seidler save upwards of $30 million by not paying Soto in his final year of arbitration? Absolutely.
Will the Padres be a better defensive team without Soto? Most likely.
Juan Soto is a generational talent, one whom Preller wanted as an international free agent but settled for on the trade block. Soto may leave for a different club for 2025 and beyond, but if the goal remains to bring a World Series to San Diego, Juan Soto needs to be wearing brown and gold come spring 2024.
Dominic is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism. He also is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.”