Chatter about a potential Juan Soto trade has gained steam within the past few days. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic wrote on Tuesday the Padres were “almost certain” to deal the star outfielder this offseason. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported this morning that the Friars are engaging other clubs in discussions about the winter’s top trade candidate.
While there’s no indication one team has moved ahead as any sort of favorite, it seems increasingly likely the Padres will pull the trigger on a deal — perhaps as soon as next week’s Winter Meetings. San Diego’s biggest motivation would be to subtract Soto’s arbitration salary, projected at $33MM by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, from their books. Making a trade relatively early in the offseason would afford the front office more clarity as they subsequently look to deepen the roster in other areas.
The Yankees have made no secret of their desire to add a left-handed hitting outfielder. None would be as impactful as Soto, who could slot into left field to form an otherworldly corner outfield tandem with Aaron Judge. On Wednesday, SNY’s Andy Martino wrote that while San Diego and the Yankees continued ongoing dialogue, talks were still in their early stages and no deal was close.
[Related: The Best Fits For A Juan Soto Trade]
If the Padres accelerate discussions on Soto with the Yankees or another team, it seems controllable starting pitching would be a focal point of the return. Brendan Kuty of the Athletic wrote on Wednesday that San Diego was looking for upper-level rotation help in Soto talks. Both Passan and Dennis Lin of the Athletic expressed a similar sentiment.
That’s no surprise. Rotation depth is the biggest question facing president of baseball operations A.J. Preller and his front office. Each of Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo and Nick Martinez hit free agency. (Martinez has already come off the board by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Reds.) Beyond Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, the Padres have some combination of Pedro Avila, Jay Groome, Matt Waldron, Glenn Otto and Jairo Iriarte as rotation options. That’s nowhere near sufficient for a team that hopes to compete, meaning the Padres need to bring in at least two (ideally three) starters.
That’d be difficult to accomplish via free agency. Lin wrote yesterday that the team was currently operating with around $10-20MM in payroll space. That probably wouldn’t be enough to add more than one notable starter….