The still fairly new reality of the New York Mets being linked to almost every big name available in Major League Baseball’s market will have a new dimension this winter with new president of baseball operations David Stearns pulling the strings. But it hasn’t stopped the endless speculation tying them to superstar outfielder Juan Soto.
The Mets have been considered potential suitors for the past few months since ESPN’s Jeff Passan deemed them as “a scary possibility,” to land the 25-year-old, who appears to be on the trade market with one year left on his contract because the San Diego Padres need to shed roughly 20% of their salary this winter.
Soto, who is going through arbitration, is expected to garner north of $30 million in 2024 which is likely a price too rich for the Padres to fit on their books.
Since Passan’s comments, most of the rumbling involving Soto has connected him more with the Yankees, who are in need of a franchise-altering move to get them out of their current rut amidst the stale regime of Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman — and rightfully so. A left-handed power bat of his caliber is exactly what is needed to rejuvenate things in the Bronx after a rare postseason-less campaign.
Dominican-based baseball writer Hector Gomez further strengthened Soto-to-the-Yankees this week when he reported that “a person very close to Juan Soto just told me that although the Yankees have a very good chance of getting him, he believes that Soto has a better chance of staying with the Padres in the 2024 season than of being traded.”
He then went on to mention that the Mets and Giants have been ‘involved,” in talks with the Padres for Soto, too.
It’s understandable to not give credence to such a report given his previous lack of accuracy on some previous stories, though Gomez generally proves reliable when it comes to Dominican players. This piece is not to challenge the accuracy of his reporting. It is, however, to delve into the viability of the Mets’ supposed interest in Soto — whether or not it could be possible or even a part of their plan.
The pros of trading for Soto are obvious and rather insulting to you, the readers. This is still one of the finest young talents in baseball who just came off a “down year,” that featured a .930 OPS, 35 home runs, 109 RBI, and a league-leading 132 walks. Already preparing for his seventh MLB season, he boasts a .946 career OPS with 162-game averages of 33 home runs and 100 RBI.
This is a bat that the Mets could plug into the No. 2 spot of their lineup and enjoy the rewards for at least the next decade, even if it comes with suspect defense at times in the outfield.
The cons of making a run at Soto are a bit more complicated.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Padres could ask for two top-100 prospects, which is a sizeable centerpiece in a deal that will only guarantee one year of Soto before he potentially hits free agency. The Mets spent the second half of the 2023 season purging some of its largest contracts (while still retaining enormous chunks of them) to rebuild a farm system that has gone from one of baseball’s most mediocre to one of its best.
Within a few days right before the trade deadline, former GM Billy Eppler picked up the organization’s top prospect, infielder Luisangel Acuna, and its No. 2 prospect, outfielder Drew Gilbert. Both are ranked within MLB’s top 100 prospects. They also picked up two organizational top-10 prospects in outfielder and first baseman Ryan Clifford and infielder Marco Vargas.
Immediately depleting those ranks would be counterintuitive. However, if Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, sparks talks of a sign-and-trade, that’s a price that teams would be more than OK with — though the Padres would more than likely up the ante, too, and ask for even more. Such a notion seems unlikely for now, though.
Under Stearns, the Mets view themselves as contenders for the postseason in 2024 but are not expected to be considered legitimate World Series threats until 2025 and beyond. Making a deal for one year of Soto by sending away some of those pieces expected to be contributors to that future contender, again, goes against what owner Steve Cohen has begun to build in his quest for sustainability.