It doesn't matter what the San Diego Padres say. They're facing a payroll crisis, in dire need of not just trimming some dollars off the ledger, but cutting in excess of $50 million before Opening Day. How they hope to do so while also remaining competitive is another question entirely - but there are next to no ways for them to shed that kind of payroll without trading Juan Soto.
Even if the Padres do, in fact, believe Soto will have more trade value come July, time is not their ally - and Soto trade, according to Buster Olney, is a certainty at this point.
According to MLB Trade Rumors projections, Soto will make $33 million in 2024, his final season before hitting free agency. The four-time Silver Slugger and former batting champion is somehow heading into only his age-25 season and is one of the game's most dynamic players. When he does hit free agency, he could quickly follow on Shohei Ohtani's heels and set contract records at levels once never dreamed of.
Despite that fact, now is the time for the Cubs to leverage their incredible pitching depth in the organization and go hard for Soto. Even if signing him past 2024 feels like a long shot (and it does, just given the organization's philosophy on mega-contracts), Chicago stands to gain a lot in the short-term by pulling the trigger on this blockbuster.
Cubs can't be satisfied, even after landing Juan Soto in a trade
And before you say it - I don't care that the Cubs outfield picture is crowded. I don't. Make it work. Some combination of Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki and Juan Soto is a winning mix - and adding the latter's offensive skillset to the mix would help offset a potential loss of Cody Bellinger. And don't even get me started about the possibility of pairing Soto with Bellinger next season, even if it's just for 2024.
That can't, of course, be the team's only move. There are needs at both corner infield spots - and the pitching staff needs some reinforcements, both in the rotation and the pen. But talents like Soto do not come along often. And Chicago is uniquely positioned, along with just a handful of other teams, to bring him into the fold.
Push your chips in. You won't decimate the farm system, even trading for a player of this caliber. This is a big market team that needs to get comfortable making big market moves. Period.