The Chicago Cubs have reportedly expressed interest in trading for San Diego Padres superstar Juan Soto during the offseason, according to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score. Levine states that the Cubs will be actively involved in Soto’s market. This follows earlier reports suggesting that the New York Yankees have also inquired about Soto’s availability.
The Padres are looking to reduce their payroll by up to $50 million this offseason. With key pitchers Blake Snell, Josh Hader, and Seth Lugo likely hitting free agency, the Padres have limited resources to re-sign or replace them after a disappointing 2023 season where they missed the playoffs with an 82-80 record. Trading Soto, who is projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $33 million in arbitration, would create budget flexibility for the Padres and bring in young talent to impact the team in 2024 and beyond.
On the other hand, the Cubs had a surprisingly strong season, surpassing expectations. Instead of trading Marcus Stroman and Cody Bellinger as anticipated, the Cubs acquired third baseman Jeimer Candelario and reliever Jose Cuas at the trade deadline. They were in a good position to make the postseason for the first time since 2018 but collapsed with a 7-15 record in their final 22 games. They finished the season with an 83-79 record, just one game behind the Diamondbacks and Marlins in the NL Wild Card race.
Replacing Bellinger, who is set to become a free agent, will be a focus for the Cubs in the offseason. Soto, who had an outstanding 2023 season with a .275/.410/.519 slash line, 155 wRC+, and 5.5 fWAR, would be an excellent replacement for Bellinger’s production. However, Soto’s position on the team is uncertain due to the presence of Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki, who are signed through 2026 to play in the outfield corners. While Happ has experience in center field, he didn’t play there in 2023, and his last full season as a center fielder was in 2020. The Cubs also have a surplus of outfield prospects, including top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong, who has exceptional defense in center field. Including some of these prospects in a trade for Soto could potentially clear the logjam, but it would likely lead to Soto or Happ primarily serving as the designated hitter in 2023 when Crow-Armstrong arrives.
Another factor to consider is Soto’s impending free agency after the 2024 season. Since the Cubs are still building towards contention, it’s uncertain if they would be as aggressive in acquiring Soto as a team ready for a World Series run in 2024. While an acquiring team could try to sign Soto to a long-term contract, agent Scott Boras typically encourages his clients to test the open market to establish their value. Soto has previously rejected a $440 million extension offer from the Nationals, showing his willingness to explore free agency.
The Cubs have not shown a tendency to engage in mega-deals like the Soto situation. Instead of pursuing top shortstops like Trea Turner or Xander Bogaerts last offseason, they signed Dansby Swanson to a seven-year, $177 million deal. However, Soto is younger than the average free agent, which could impact the Cubs’ approach. If the Cubs were to trade for Soto and he signs a 10-year deal next offseason, he would still be in his mid-30s by the end of the contract.
Levine also mentions the potential trade return package for Soto if the Cubs and Padres reach an agreement. Utility player Christopher Morel has caught the attention of multiple teams, and the Padres have a high opinion of him. Morel had a solid sophomore season in 2023, hitting .247/.313/.508 with 26 home runs. While he played various positions for the Cubs, including DH, outfield, second base, third base, and shortstop, his defense is below average in most of those positions. Second base seems to be his best defensive spot, but he is blocked by Nico Hoerner, who won a Gold Glove in 2023 and is under contract through 2026. Despite his defensive limitations, Morel’s bat, versatility, and pre-arbitration status make him an attractive trade asset for the Cubs.
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