Juan Soto trade rumors: Mets, Yankees top list of 15 potential destinations

The expectation in the industry is that Juan Soto will be traded this offseason.

The Padres have to shed payroll, and Soto’s expected to earn north of $30 million for 2024, whether through arbitration or a deal avoiding that process. He’s eligible to become a free agent after next season. It’s not just about 2024 payroll, of course. The biggest issue is that the Padres already have three contracts on the books worth $280 million or more — Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts — and all three run through at least 2033. 

So if a long-term extension isn’t likely — Soto’s deal would far exceed Manny Machado’s total value of $350 million — it makes a lot of sense to trade Soto now. As someone in his arbitration years, Soto has no sort of no-trade clause or veto power. Even in a “normal” offseason, there would be lots of teams interested in the elite hitter. But this year, the well is particularly dry when it comes to impact bats — aside from Shohei Ohtani, of course — so the suitors will be lining up. Soto has a career .421 on-base percentage and 157 OPS+. He hit 35 homers with 109 RBIs in 2023. 

Oh, and he just turned 25 in October.

MORE: The top 17 trade candidates this offseason

There are two types of teams that will be interested. Some clubs, the ones with a surplus of young players already in the bigs or deep farm systems, could view him strictly as a rental. He’s such an elite hitter that teams aiming for the playoffs/World Series could view the cost as worthwhile. Shoot your shot, y’know? Then, collect a draft pick as compensation when he leaves as a free agent next offseason.

Some will hope to trade for Soto and use their time with him to convince him to stick around for the long term. Ideally, those teams would love to sign him to an extension before he actually becomes a free agent next November, but at the very least they’d want to show him enough to convince him to come back after he reaches the market. 

Soto, of course, famously turned down a lucrative long-term extension with the Nationals in June 2022, shortly before he was traded to San Diego. The numbers were mind-boggling — a reported 15 years, $440 million — but Soto reportedly just wanted to make it to free agency and establish his true value. That made sense, considering his agent, Scott Boras, has a long history of encouraging his players to test the market. 

It’s fair to wonder, though, if maybe just maybe Soto and Boras took a look at the Nationals’ situation and thought that the Nats weren’t the franchise to be tethered to for the next 15 years. After all, the club did very quickly shift gears and go into full rebuild mode. And its unclear if Soto’s decision to decline the option was truly the catalyst. If the Nationals really viewed themselves as being on such shaky footing that they could have gone either way, maybe that was a smart decision for a player who wants to compete for World Series titles.  

And that was a year-and-a-half ago. Things have changed. He’s been on the precipice of the World Series with the Padres and suffered through a season of endless frustration. Who’s to say he truly has a “free agency or bust” policy? Any sort of admission toward that end would be a loss of leverage, an erosion of bargaining power, and Boras won’t let that happen. It’s not impossible to imagine he could join a new team this offseason, decide that’s where he wants to be and sign a long-term deal for what he and Boras perceive to be fair market value. 

There will be no home-team discounts, surely, but don’t underestimate the influence of an extended, months-long wooing period. That’s what many of these teams will be counting on.

All that said, let’s look at the teams who will at least have conversations with the Padres moving forward, and whether they fit the rental or long-term profile. Expect lots of rumors soon, but not an actual trade. It would be rather surprising if Soto is traded before Ohtani signs, unless Ohtani decides to wait until the calendar flips over to 2024. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Long-term

Why this makes sense: The Yankees are in a bit of a precarious spot. They have lots of issues — there were three or four black holes in the lineup most nights last year, and is there a reliable starting pitcher beyond Gerrit Cole? — and no one player will solve all of them. That said, adding Soto into the lineup for the life of Aaron Judge’s contract would go a long way to addressing the “Aaron Judge has no help” dilemma. That would be right up there with Mookie Betts/Freddie Freeman as the best lineup combo in baseball. Soto’s not afraid of baseball’s biggest stages — remember how he had 3 homers, 7 RBIs and a 1.178 OPS in the 2019 World Series? — and though he’s far from a traditional pull hitter, you have to think he’d salivate at the idea of taking aim at Yankee Stadium’s famous (infamous?) short porch in right field every home game for the next decade. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Long-term

Why this makes sense: Look, in a perfect world the Mets would love to sign Shohei Ohtani as a free agent this offseason. But most in the industry expect him to sign somewhere else, so what is the backup impact plan for the Mets? They could do worse than a 25-year-old slugger with a career 157 OPS+ and 28.6 bWAR, coming off a 35-homer season. And if any owner could convince Soto to forego the free-agent market by paying top-dollar, it’s Steve Cohen. Almost feels like Soto’s destined to wind up in New York one way or the other, doesn’t it?

MORE: Breaking down top candidates to sign Shohei Ohtani


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Long-term

Why this makes sense: Same situation as the Mets, though the Cubs seem to have — as a sense in the industry, and also judging by the Vegas odds — a much better chance of actually landing Ohtani. But let’s say they don’t, and Ohtani signs elsewhere by the end of the Winter Meetings. The Cubs have an outstanding farm system, with enough depth to move the type of young players/prospects the Padres would want — like, Christopher Morel — in return for Soto without damaging the system too much. After making the stunning managerial move to lure Craig Counsell away from the rival Brewers, there’s no doubt the front office will make at least one corresponding impact player acquisition. 

MORE: Craig Counsell burns bridges in Milwaukee with jump to Cubs


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Long-term

Why this makes sense: The Giants are actively seeking their next franchise player, as evidenced by their all-out pursuits of both Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last offseason (doesn’t that feel like it was so very long ago?). They’d love Ohtani, of course, but aside from him there isn’t a bat on the free-agent market that even remotely comes close to the type of impact hitter the Giants want in their lineup the next decade. So Soto makes a lot of sense, if the Padres would be willing to trade him to a division rival. Sign him, reunite him with Bob Melvin and spend the next several months making Soto offers he can’t refuse. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Long-term

Why this makes sense: I mean, the Dodgers make sense for pretty much every available impact player this offseason. That’s what happens when motivation to improve matches monetary muscle, with a hearty mix of opportunity present. Ohtani is the top priority, but Soto would be a pretty good fallback. You thought Mookie Betts/Freddie Freeman was a dynamic combination atop the lineup? Add Soto to that mix. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Rental

Why this makes sense: There’s zero chance the Reds ownership would ever consider spending the money it would take to sign Soto long-term, of course. But the Reds have a deep farm system, with four of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects, plus other potential impact players. And what if — humor me — the Reds just decided to use some of those prospects to throw a giant curveball at the rest of the league and meet San Diego’s asking price. Think of how good the Reds’ lineup could be in 2024. Seriously. Imagine, just for a moment, a Cincinnati lineup that goes something like this … 

1. Elly De La Cruz
2. Matt McLain
3. Juan Soto
4. Spencer Steer
5. Christian Encarnacion-Strand
6. Noveli Marte
7. Will Benson
8. Tyler Stephenson
9. T.J. Friedl

That’s the kind of lineup that could win a division. Of course, they’d need their young pitchers to stay healthy and take a step forward, maybe add a veteran starter or two, but if they landed Soto, that other stuff would be the easy part. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Either

Why this makes sense: This would be very much a rich-get-richer situation, and it probably isn’t likely but not impossible. Even though Leodys Tavarez has been their primary center fielder, rookie phenom Evan Carter absolutely can handle the position, giving the Rangers a corner-outfield duo of Soto and Adolis Garcia. That’s all kinds of fun, isn’t it? “They” always say winning the second title is harder than winning the first one, but adding Soto to that already-dynamic offense would give the Rangers a great shot at accomplishing that feat. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Rental, absolutely

Why this makes sense: The Rays aren’t terrified of short-term contracts. The idea of trading for Soto, making a playoff run with him near the top of the lineup, then getting draft-pick compensation and developing the player they get with that pick into an All-Star doesn’t exactly sound far-fetched. Hell, it almost sounds probable. And you know the eternally great Rays system has produced the players that would appeal to the Padres.

MORE: Ranking the top 99 available free agents for 2024

Blue Jays

Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Either, probably

Why this makes sense: Blue Jays fans seem convinced that the team just might do something dramatic this offseason. Maybe? Dunno. The last time they made a significant trade, they dealt away a young catcher who immediately led his new team to the World Series and looks very much like a perennial All-Star. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Rental

Why this makes sense: Decision-maker Dave Dombrowski has a career full of bold impact moves, and after the way his lineup was shut down in the back half of the NLCS, you can bet they won’t just run out the same lineup again, with fingers crossed for a better result. If they’d trade free-swinging Nick Castellanos and replace him in right field/the lineup with Soto, who’s ultra-disciplined when it comes to now swinging at pitches outside the zone? Then put Soto in the 3-hole after Trea Turner and before Bryce Harper? That would be a heck of a start toward a run at the 2024 World Series. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Rental

Why this makes sense: As good as that lineup was all year, it went cold in the postseason. But now imagine putting Soto into the No. 2 slot, behind Ronald Acuña, Jr., and ahead of Austin Riley, with Matt Olson batting cleanup. The Braves wouldn’t pay what it would take to sign him long-term, but an Atlanta lineup with Soto in that spot might set records that would never be broken. 

Red Sox

Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Long-term, I guess

Why this makes sense: Honestly, I’m not sure it does. The sports books in Vegas pretty consistently give the Red Sox among the top-five odds to trade for Soto. which is why they’re mentioned here, but I just don’t see that happening. The Sox have much more pressing needs in their rotation — two starters, including one at the top of the staff, are needed — and in the infield (who’s playing second base?) and, well, their four best hitters — Rafael Devers, Triston Casas, Masataka Yoshida and Jarren Duran — are all lefties. Also, three of their top prospects are all outfielders. Could they make it happen? Technically, sure. But it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Rental

Why this makes sense: The Cardinals’ top priority obviously is addressing the rotation, no doubt about that. And St. Louis lineup is actually pretty good as-is. But Soto would make any lineup significantly better, right? But the reason they’re included in this what-if exercise is this: As much as any team in the bigs, the Cardinals have the pieces to trade that might interest the Padres. Pick one or two from this group (depending on the first choice) — Dylan Carlson, Alec Burleson, Tyler O’Neill, Brendan Donovan, Tommy Edman, Juan Yepez, Luken Baker — and add a lower-level prospect or two, then slot Soto into the lineup between Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado and that’s legit. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Rental

Why this makes sense: Seattle wouldn’t spend what it takes to keep Soto long term, but as a short-term solution? If they’re willing to deal from a strength and part with one of their young pitchers — Bryan Woo, maybe? Emerson Hancock? — they could make it happen, but “if” is carrying a lot of weight there. Want to get Seattle fans really excited? Throw out this scenario: Sign Ohtani to a long-term deal, then trade for Soto and watch 2024 expectations fly through the roof. 


Rental vs. Long-term candidate: Rental

Why this makes sense: I’d love to think the Orioles would sign Soto long-term, but that’s just not realistic. Yes, the Orioles already have a glut of outfielders — and more on the way — but maybe they use that depth to roll the dice with Soto for a season? Probably not happening, I know, but it would be fun to see him slot into that lineup with Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, wouldn’t it?

Source : ESPN.com

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