Will Juan Soto want to re-sign with the Padres?

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Juan Soto could become a free agent after the 2024 season.

Will Juan Soto even want to stay with the San Diego Padres?

The team is in disarray as the 2023 Major League Baseball season approaches halfway. San Diego’s record is 38-45. The Padres are 11.5 games behind the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West. Adding insult to injury, two more division rivals are in the thick of the National League postseason race. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are in second and third place in the division, respectfully; the Padres trail Los Angeles by 8.5 games and San Francisco by eight games.

San Diego has faced setback after setback throughout the season so far — stranding runners in clutch situations; a lineup featuring four superstars being shutout; the bullpen blowing leads, just to name a few. The Padres have experienced series losses against last-place teams like the Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, and Kansas City Royals. Two bright spots on the team are starting pitching and defense. The Padres have allowed the second-fewest runs in the NL (337) behind the Atlanta Braves (328). A team with these two facets working should lead its division or, at the very least, find itself in a pennant race. For the Padres, however, these facets have been overshadowed by an overwhelmingly underperforming offense.

Will Juan Soto want to stay with the Padres?

Soto rejected last year’s 15-year, $440 million contract extension offer from the Washington Nationals. Weeks later, he was traded to the Padres with Josh Bell. It’s no secret that the 24-year-old outfielder is looking for a long-term deal with more money. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden predicted earlier this year that Soto will agree to 16 years and $500 million to stay in San Diego. Will Soto want to stay with the way things are going?

Padres owner Peter Seidler said in 2022 that the Padres would “never” turn down giving a half-billion dollars to keep Soto in brown pinstripes. Seidler has already committed more than a half-billion to land shortstop Xander Bogaerts (11 years, $280 million) and to extend third baseman Manny Machado (11 years, %350 million). The Padres have the third-highest payroll in baseball ($236,962,024) this season.

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

It appears Seidler is not opposed to doing what’s necessary. If Soto were to test free agency, however, he wouldn’t be the only owner willing to pay him his demand. Usual suspects like the Dodgers and New York Yankees will certainly come calling. Other teams, like the surprisingly good Cincinnati Reds, could look to sign a superstar to take their team to the next level. The Reds lead the NL Central with one of MLB’s lowest payrolls. Extending Soto won’t be easy for Seidler and the Padres.

If Soto were to leave the Padres, that would hurt. General manager AJ Preller spent a significant amount of prospect capital to acquire him. He traded starting pitcher Mackenzie Gore, who was previously presumed to be in Preller’s long-term plans. He traded Top 100 prospects CJ Abrams (graduated), James Wood (No. 5), and Robert Hassell III (No. 97). These players will play for the Nationals for the next several years if not their whole careers. If Soto were to leave the Padres, Preller’s blockbuster trade amounts to nothing notable. If Soto extends, however, the trade works according to plan.

Teammates aren’t pulling their weight

The reason Soto wouldn’t stay in San Diego is clear to see when looking at the underperforming offense. Soto is hitting .274/.423/.502/.925 and has a 155 wRC+. He has accrued as much WAR at the halfway point this season (3.4) as he did in 2022 (3.8). Despite a slow start, Soto is performing as expected. The same can’t be said for most of his teammates.

The only other Padres hitting above replacement level are Ha Seoung Kim and Fernando Tatis, Jr. Tatis is hitting .277 with a .854 OPS and has a 133 wRC+. Kim, who moved over to second base this season, is playing like a serviceable, everyday infielder. Kim has a 111 wRC+ to go along with his excellent defense.

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The same can’t be said for the rest of the lineup. Jake Cronenworth is playing below expectations. Machado had a bounceback June, slugging .421 with five doubles and four home runs. Bogaerts is hovering above replacement level with a 104 wRC+. Everyone else is underperforming. Soto could be looking around at this and thinking he doesn’t want to play with guys who can’t pull their weight.

The Padres are a good team on paper. That hasn’t yet translated to the field. This team was assembled to win, but so far, it has only disappointed. Soto hits free agency after the 2024 season. It would be ideal for Preller and the Padres to get something done before that season starts. Otherwise, teams across the league will grow optimistic about a chance to land his services with a mega deal.

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