With the MLB Winter Meetings slated to start Monday, trade rumors are flying fast and furious. The biggest name generating buzz is San Diego Padres outfielder Juan Soto, who is eligible to hit free agency after the 2024 season.
The Padres finished last season two games above .500 and in need of a loan to cover salaries. While members of the organization love Soto, it's prudent to maintain the longview. If Soto isn't going to stick around San Diego long term, it's wise to cash out now and balance their cap sheet.
No team has been more involved in Soto rumors than the New York Yankees, who need a ton of help on the offensive end. Aaron Judge is a miracle worker, but the Yanks struggled to consistently generate runs last season. Soto would give New York another slugger in the middle of their lineup and a consistent presence on the base paths.
That said, the Yankees are hesitant to match the Padres' asking price, according to Andy Martino of SNY. Now, it would appear another American League East team is primed to steal Soto out from under the Yankees.
The Toronto Blue Jays have intensified trade talks with San Diego, per MLB insider Héctor Gómez. Toronto has emerged as the "favorites" to trade for Soto, as talks with the Yankees have stalled.
Toronto Blue Jays dubbed "favorites" to trade for San Diego Padres' Juan Soto
The noise around Soto has gotten progressively louder all offseason. FanSided's Robert Murray puts the odds of a trade at 70 percent, citing the Padres' need to save money and the volume of assets being offered in exchange for the 25-year-old.
"I want to make one thing clear: The Padres are not shopping Juan Soto. They don’t have to trade him. But considering the amount of interest league-wide in Soto, and what the Padres can do with the money saved by trading Soto, I expect him to be traded this winter."
The Blue Jays finished last season third in the AL East with a respectable 89-73 record. That was enough for a wild card berth, but the Minnesota Twins made quick work of the Jays with a 2-0 series sweep. There is tremendous pressure on Ross Atkins and the Toronto front office to build a winner. There's a risk of Soto walking next winter — Soto's agent, Scott Boras, loves to milk free agency to maximize his clients' money — but Toronto would be extremely well-positioned to compete for the AL East crown and a high postseason seed with Soto on the roster.
If the Blue Jays are willing to bid top dollar for Shohei Ohtani, one has to imagine the team would be open to spending the money necessary to keep Soto around. He would anchor the middle of the lineup alongside third base All-Star Bo Bichette. Toronto would have to give up a number of assets, potentially including top prospect Ricky Tiedemann, but Soto is worth it.
Soto appeared in all 162 games for San Diego last season, slashing .275/.410/.519 with 35 home runs, 109 RBIs, 129 strikeouts, and a league-high 132 walks in 708 plate appearances. He's a superstar, and he's only 25. The upside is limitless. If the Blue Jays can get him, it dramatically changes the landscape of the American League.