It is hard to believe that the San Diego Padres are at the point where they might consider trading Juan Soto this offseason, but that appears to be under consideration. According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Padres will "abolsutely" trade the superstar outfielder before the season.
Olney: SF Giants division rivals will "absolutely" trade superstar outfielder this winter
Olney seems to have a pretty good pulse on the Padres' situation. As soon as the Giants fired Gabe Kapler, he immediately speculated that Bob Melvin would be a fit for the gig. It did not seem like it would turn out that way at first, but the Padres eventually granted Melvin permission to interview for the Giants' vacancy. Of course, Melvin was tabbed to be their new manager shortly thereafter.
Plus, if you look at how San Diego has operated this offseason, they appear motivated to slash payroll costs. Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Blake Snell and Nick Martinez have all hit free agency after finishing last season with San Diego.
All four pitchers had strong years with Snell emerging as an NL Cy Young finalist and likely winner. That is over 500 quality innings that San Diego will need to replace but in a more creative sense than just bringing the band back together again. In fact, the Padres seemingly will not be retaining any of those pitchers.
They have been instructed to bring their payroll costs down to be in compliance with the league's debt service ratio. They also recently received a $50 million loan to cover payroll costs near the end of the year.
There is a legitimate need for the Padres to cut payroll costs to be closer to the $200 million mark. Perhaps, trading Soto is the easiest way to do so given that he has a projected price tag of $33 million in his final trip through arbitration.
If he is made available, the Padres will have plenty of interested suitors. Though, these suitors are aware that San Diego needs to shed payroll, so they could leverage this information for a lower-than-expected haul for one season of Soto. That said, the Padres will be able to leverage the number of interested teams to net a substantial haul for one of the best players in baseball.
Olney seems certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Padres will trade Soto before the season. If it does happen, it would be an incredibly surprising development given how the Padres have spent money lately.
Less than a year ago, they signed Xander Bogaerts to a $288 million deal and extended Yu Darvish, Jake Cronenworth, and Manny Machado. Now, they are looking at ways to cut costs. The rest of the NL West, including the Giants, will be closely watching the Padres this winter as it seems like they all have a chance to improve while San Diego could get noticeably worse.