Given the San Diego Padres' litany of issues, especially on the financial end, after a terrible 2023 campaign, one might bet a massive contract extension offer to Juan Soto isn't on the way and that a trade is more likely. No, he won't be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But! Based on the latest buzz, perhaps LA will be in a good position to sign him next offseason when he becomes a free agent? Soto has one year of arbitration eligibility left and he's expected to make ~$30 million, which is part of the reason the Padres might be seeking a trade if they don't feel the 2024 roster is primed to shape into a contender.
As another Boras client, his free agency could be an obstacle for the Dodgers, who famously don't do long-term megadeals anymore, especially with players repped by the super agent. But at some point, they're going to have to do it, and there's no better candidate than Soto. He'll be 26 years old when he hits the open market and is surely worth a deal in excess of 10 years because of how many prime seasons any team would get from the generational star.
Boras clients are almost always slated to hit free agency before signing any sort of an extension, so the Dodgers have that in their favor. Then again, we won't rule out some team blowing Soto away with an offer he can't refuse, especially if he can avoid the pressure of a contract year.
Not to worry, though! Because former GM Jim Bowden's top five Soto trade destinations (in the event the Padres bend) are far from threats to commit $350+ million to the slugger upon his arrival.
Rumored Juan Soto trade destinations bode well for Dodgers signing him in free agency
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox
- Seattle Mariners
- San Francisco Giants
- Cleveland Guardians
The Yankees have three $300 million contracts on the books and just sunk another potentially wasteful $162 million in Carlos Rodón. DJ LeMahieu has another $45 million left on his deal. Anthony Rizzo has another $23 million. New York's general lack of aggression on the trade market and in free agency is a positive two-fold development here for the Dodgers. The Yankees probably won't trade for him, and if they do, they probably won't overextend themselves again with another $300 million investment.
The Red Sox? Haha. Really? They traded Mookie Betts to avoid paying him. It was like pulling teeth for them to give Rafael Devers an extension. They constantly lowball their own homegrown players. So what tells us Soto is a good bet to land there beyond 2024? Almost as funny as them being a "threat" to sign Shohei Ohtani.
The Mariners actually might represent a considerable threat here because of the escalating arms race in the AL West. They definitely have the assets and potentially the financial flexibility to make a Soto trade/extension happen, but they just might not be an attractive enough destination for Soto.
The Giants? Not only does their farm system stink, but why would the Padres trade Soto in the division unless they were confident they could steal top talent from San Francisco while watching them fail to contend for a playoff spot in 2024? At the very least, the Dodgers don't have to worry about an extension there because Farhan Zaidi attented Andrew Friedman's School of Financial Caution.
And lastly, the Guardians, who always have talent but possess a middling farm system rank (No. 15 per MLB Pipeline, but better than every team on this list except the Giants at No. 14), absolutely do not have the financial resources to keep Soto beyond 2024. Jose Ramirez's $141 million contract represents the largest in franchise history, and they would have to go $200 million more to even get Soto to listen.
Whether the Dodgers sign Shohei Ohtani or not, Soto should still be in their plans come next year. The team's championship window of yesteryear has closed, and now they have to get back to the mountaintop with a new assortment of players and leaders. Spending big this time around to ensure there aren't massive roster holes or a lack of postseason DNA might be the final boss for Friedman, because nothing else has really worked.