Remember when the San Diego Padres traded for Juan Soto, then went out and signed Xander Bogaerts and everyone was ready to annoint them as an inevitability? Well, that's not how things played out and, now, ownership is looking to pull back on spending heading into the 2024 season.
The latest, courtesy of The Athletic:
"The Padres, as they wade into an uncertain offseason, must better optimize an expensive roster. Ownership has committed to a plan to return to compliance with the league’s debt-service rules, which helps explain early indications that payroll could drop to the $200 million range. Preller, even if he doesn’t want to, may be forced to explore trading Juan Soto ahead of the outfielder’s final season before a potentially record-setting free agency. "- Dennis Lin, The Athletic
The Padres fielded a 2023 payroll just a tick over $256 million all-in: by far the highest in franchise history - and the third-highest in baseball, trailing only the Mets and Yankees. Soto will go through arbitration one final time this offseason and will see a hefty raise, to a projected $33 million salary, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
Cubs need another big bat - regardless of what happens with Cody Bellinger
Enter the Cubs, who could wind up needing to replace Cody Bellinger's production in the middle of the lineup after the likely Comeback Player of the Year turned in a monster bounceback campaign that will surely see teams clamoring for his services in free agency. If Chicago wants to avoid handing out the long-term deal it would take, a Soto trade could be a short-term fix for the lineup.
Of course, the problem there, is you're coming off some high-quality pieces in any sort of Soto trade - and if you have no intentions of signing him long-term, that's problematic. Perhaps his age makes the three-time All-Star an exception to the rule the Cubs seemingly operate under, but we're putting the cart before the horse here.
Right now, it's simply a situation to keep monitoring. Because once the World Series ends in a couple weeks, the attention will quickly turn to the offseason - and in Chicago, there's a lot of work to be done if the team wants to build on its improvements from 2023 and have a legitimate shot at the postseason next year.