San Diego Padres outfielder Juan Soto is one of the brightest young stars in baseball. He's also inching closer to a tremendous free-agency payday following the 2024 season. Will he switch uniforms once more before he signs what will likely be a massive contract, though?
It's possible. The Padres acquired Soto at the 2022 trade deadline with hopes he'd help them make a deep run to October. San Diego made it all the way to the NLCS for the first time since 1998 but fell short to the Philadelphia Phillies. The 2023 campaign was a disaster, as the Padres underperformed with an 82-80 record.
Now, the organization is looking to shave some payroll heading into 2024. A prime candidate to help them reach that goal? Trading Soto, who is projected to earn $33 million next year, according to MLB Trade Rumors. He could still be on the Padres come Opening Day, but not before his name runs through the trade rumor mill all winter.
With that in mind, here are six potential trade destinations that could make sense for Soto as he nears free agency (in no particular order).
San Francisco Giants
As was previously mentioned when discussing Shohei Ohtani, the Giants are in desperate need of a franchise player. And more specifically, they'd like that dude to be a hitter. San Francisco has tried for years to nab one and has come up empty-handed every time. Most recently, the Giants whiffed on Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last winter (for different reasons).
Would the Padres actually trade within the division, though? That's always a dicey scenario, but San Diego must not be that opposed to it. After all, they just let Bob Melvin leave to become the Giants' new manager. So, there would be some familiarity there for Soto. Plus, San Francisco has shown in previous pursuits that there's considerable financial flexibility to make a lucrative long-term deal happen.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox just filled the Chaim Bloom-sized void in their front office by tabbing former reliever Craig Breslow as Boston's new head of baseball operations. He'll be tasked with finding a way to get the Sox back to consistently competitive baseball. While they reached the ALCS in 2021, Boston has finished last in the AL East three times in the last four seasons.
Rafael Devers is locked down for the next decade. Adding Soto would give this lineup a much-needed jolt of production. This would also be the definition of going in guns blazing for Breslow as he settles into his new role. Just as we heard that Ohtani isn't at the top of Boston's priority list, it'd be hard to see them make a huge push for Soto. Unless there's a way for the Red Sox to offload another contract in the process (*cough* Chris Sale *cough*).
New York Yankees
The Yankees have been connected to Soto for quite some time now. There were rumors before the Washington Nationals sent him to the Padres at the 2022 trade deadline. Those rumors were even louder this past season as Yankee fans were pleading with general manager Brian Cashman to get this lineup more offense.
While it's happening a few months too late with regard to the 2023 season, it sounds like New York is legitimately interested. According to SNY's Andy Martino, though, discussions haven't progressed beyond an initial check-in.
As we saw from this past season, the Yankees need another player who can carry the offensive load with outfielder Aaron Judge. And with the Yankee Stadium's famous short porch in right field, it'd be nice for that player to be a left-handed hitter. Soto fits the bill, but would the Yankees be able to swing a long-term deal to keep him in the Bronx?
They already have three $300 million players on the roster in Judge, Gerrit Cole, and Giancarlo Stanton. We'll see if the "right deal" comes to fruition that could make sense for both New York and San Diego. It was the Bombers' worst season in about three decades, so there could very well be motivation to make a huge move to push the needle back toward contention.
The 2022 season was a landmark one for the Mariners because they finally broke MLB's longest postseason drought. They didn't return to October in 2023, but they got pretty darn close. With the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers both reaching the ALCS, though, Seattle still has some catching up to do in the AL West.
It's hard to see them making a long-term play for Soto. He and agent Scott Boras will likely be looking for a contract within the $500 million range. They also don't have a highly-rated farm system loaded with talent. So, sending a bunch of prospects to San Diego for one year of Soto may not make a ton of sense. But, we know not much can stop Jerry Dipoto from making a trade if he really wants a player.
Then, Seattle could try and go all out for 2024 to get back in the playoffs and see what happens.
This is another scenario where it's hard to see a long-term agreement coming to fruition. But with the AL Central seemingly up for grabs every single year, it's an opportunity for the Guardians to take a gamble.
The one thing Cleveland desperately needs is more power. Their .381 team slugging percentage was the second-worst mark in baseball during the 2023 campaign. Nobody hit fewer homers than the Guardians, either. They slugged 124 dingers, with the Nationals (151) being the closest to them.
Jose Ramirez is an excellent player, but he can't do it all himself. Cleveland's farm system ranking took a hit at the 2023 midseason mark because of several players getting promoted to the big leagues. One would think the young talent already on the MLB roster could help get a hypothetical trade over the finish line. But since getting Soto to agree to an extension seems rather unlikely, it's hard to believe the Guardians would surrender the player capital needed to acquire him.
New York Mets
Since Steve Cohen owns the Mets, anything is possible in Queens — especially when it comes to roster construction. One would have to think a potential Soto pursuit would depend on how other things play out. Reports are saying New York is willing to break the bank for Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Ohtani. But if they only land one or none? It wouldn't be shocking if President of Baseball Operations David Stearns turned his attention to San Diego to supplement New York's offense.
There have already been rumblings around the industry about the Mets being a real possibility to land Soto, as reported by ESPN's Jeff Passan. And based on how things have gone the last couple of winters, there isn't a question as to whether there's money available to get a long-term extension done.
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