It always starts with a simple, innocuous question.
What would the package for Juan Soto look like?— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) October 30, 2023
Rojas & Abel + more?
I really don’t know.
Then you see more and more people writing and talking about the same topic, some who are even in the industry.
Combine the expected contract it would take to sign Soto long term and the above factors, and it seems there’s a real possibility San Diego will trade him this offseason...[y]ou can’t rule out the Padres finding common ground with Soto on a huge extension, but if that doesn’t happen, they need to seriously consider moving him this winter.
Then it starts to slip out that actual teams are at least inquiring as to what it would take to make such a deal.
The Yankees have already had one preliminary conversation with the San Diego Padres this offseason about superstar outfielder Juan Soto, league sources say. Talks have not yet progressed beyond that initial check-in.
Now, you’ve got a full fledged rumor on the mill that is going to churn all offseason long unless (until?) something is done to squash the rumors. Maybe it takes the general managers unequivocally stating that no deal is going to get done. Maybe it takes an owner to voice the same ideal, that the team’s philosophy has not changed about building whatever roster it takes in order to win a World Series.
But where is the fun in all that?
Creating a proper trade for a player is fool’s errand. No matter how hard you try, knowing the priorities of one of the participating teams is impossible. When it comes to the Phillies, Juan Soto would fit several criteria that became glaring during the NLCS:
- solid contact skills
- on base ability
- low strikeout rate
- over the fence power
The Phillies’ reasons for acquiring Soto would be obvious, but what would San Diego’s reasons be? Fear of losing him for nothing? Too much money in arbitration? Not having enough money to be able to pay your organization their full salaries because you do not know how to budget? In Soto’s final season contractually with the team, the Padres should not stop short of going for a title and trade him away, but they likely will, which brings us back to the Phillies. If they are a potential dance partner, would they be able to put together a trade package?
One would have to figure that trading for perhaps the most complete hitter in the game would require parting with the best prospect in the organization. That would mean Andrew Painter. We are all aware of the tale of his Tommy John surgery and while that wouldn’t deter teams from acquiring him should the Phillies dangle him at all, it might put a bur in their boot to be completely comfortable with the deal. To sweeten it up, the team might want another arm. Just to make sure. The question would be: would that arm necessarily have to be their next best prospect in Mick Abel, or might they take a look at the one the next tier down in Griff McGarry? While he might be something of a risk as a starter, there is the possibility McGarry becomes some kind of high stakes reliever that is able to overpower teams with his arsenal of plus stuff. Is he completely sure where it’s going all the time? Maybe! But the Phillies would likely rather send him away and keep Abel since the latter is more of a sure thing as a starter at this point than McGarry.
So now, you have two arms going back to the Padres, say Painter and McGarry. Do the Phillies offer more than that? SHOULD they offer more than that?
Parting with someone like Johan Rojas would probably be met with some pause, albeit not as much from the Phillies side as it would from the Padres side. Rojas is a solid player: elite defensively, but with much to work on with the bat. That was fully on display during the postseason when he was exposed in at bat after at bat after at bat. One could argue with whether or not the dropoff from Rojas to Cristian Pache defensively would have been negated by the upgrade in plate appearances, but that is neither here nor there. With some more seasoning in the minor leagues, Rojas will likely be exactly what he was for the Phillies: bottom of the order hitter who can change a game defensively.
Is that something San Diego would be interested in right now? They currently have Trent Grisham in center field, an above average glove in his own right, but adding Rojas to a Grisham-Fernando Tatis, Jr. outfield would be where flyballs go to die. But offensively, the shift from what Soto can offer right now to what Rojas can offer is quite the expanse. Enough that Rojas wouldn’t likely be enough.
So, the Phillies are offering Painter, McGarry and Rojas. Is that enough?
This is why making a trade for someone like Juan Soto is so difficult. Were the Phillies flush with minor league talent in the way that the Orioles or Rays are, parting with some of that talent to acquire Soto would be easy. As the team sits close to the top of the National League hierarchy, they are in a position where they should be trying to get someone like Soto to push them over the top. Yet as they stand now, parting with prospects like Painter or even Rojas could be an issue with future team building exercises. Matt Winkelman wrote about how spending money is fine so long as you accept the penalties that come with roster building that comes with it and if the Phillies are fine with it, they should plow past whatever luxury tax penalties exist.
But if we’re talking purely players in terms of equal trade value for Juan Soto, it might be tough to come up with enough talent to balance the trade sheet. If the talks between the two teams actually become (publicly) heated, then it’ll be fascinating to see what names are bandied about. Whoever it might be, it would hurt to part with them. It’s just another thing to watch for this offseason.