Juan Soto has been a staple of MLB trade rumors since the Aug. 1 deadline, but it would appear the San Diego Padres' slugger is staying put... for now.
With GMs convening for their annual meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona, Padres head honcho A.J. Preller has a prime opportunity to gauge the (presumably robust) market for Soto. But, Preller is content — even eager — to keep Soto into the regular season.
"Juan is obviously a tremendous offensive force, a big part of our club," he told A.J. Cassavell of MLB.com. "I think we saw last year, as the season went on, the impact he had on our lineup."
He's not kidding. Soto appeared in all 162 games for San Diego, slashing .275/.410/.519 with 35 home runs, 109 RBIs, and a league-leading 132 walks in 708 plate appearances. He is highly disciplined at the plate. His 16.6 percent whiff rate sits in the 99th percentile, according to Baseball Savant. He's also in the 99th percentile in terms of hard-hit percentage (55.3). He doesn't chase, he doesn't strike out much (74th percentile), and pitchers tend to pitch around him (100th percentile in walk rate).
Oh, and he's 25 years old. Frankly, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Padres want to keep Soto around.
Padres have no plans to trade Juan Soto (for now)
Soto is San Diego's best player. The reason for his frequent inclusion in trade rumors is purely contractual. Soto's deal expires at the end of next season. The Padres were saddled with the third-highest payroll in the MLB in 2023, making their 82-80 finish all the more disappointing. It was so dire that San Diego had to take out a $50 million loan to cover salaries, so trades are coming.
Just don't expect those trades to involve Soto, for now. The Padres have other big-but-movable contracts, such as Xander Bogaerts. The next serious time demarcation is the 2024 trade deadline, but the Padres might extend Soto before then, putting the trade noise to bed permanently.
"[We] met with the Padres, they laid out their plan for next year which obviously included a lineup that definitely includes Juan Soto," Soto's agent, Scott Boras, said. "He’s their one .900 OPS player. They’re looking for more left-handed bats, rather than less."
The "preference" for many inside the Padres organization is for Soto to stay onboard through 2024 and potentially beyond, per Cassavell. Of course, if the Padres don't agree to terms on a new contract, the front office could be forced to pivot eventually — whether they want to or not. Allowing Soto to walk in free agency a year from now with zero return would be bad form.
If the Padres do ultimately put Soto on the trade market, expect several teams to take a keen interest. The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs have been floated as potential suitors. The cross-state San Francisco Giants desperately need a big bat in the middle of their lineup. The New York Mets could be spenders under David Stearns. The possibilities are endless.
That is, unless there is only one possibility and the Padres make every effort to keep Soto. Last season was a disappointment, but perhaps another year of continuity and a new manager turns the tide in the right direction. Soto is absolutely capable of being the frontman for a contender if San Diego can deliver the requisite supporting cast.