San Diego Padres eyeing specific return in Juan Soto trade, 3 contenders emerge for star

The San Diego Padres are more than likely going to be forced to trade star outfielder Juan Soto this offseason. San Diego had to take out a $50 million loan to meet payroll at the end of a down season in Southern California.

Soto is slated to become a free agent after the 2024 season. He’s highly unlikely to sign a contract extension before then with super-agent Scott Boras representing the three-time All-Star. Meanwhile, the Padres are set to cut their payroll after it stood at $256.1 million a season ago.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, San Diego is seeking controllable young starting pitchers for Soto. Meanwhile, the MLB insider also indicates that the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs are big-time fits for the star outfielder. That’s primarily due to their need for more outfield help and an excess of young starting pitching.

This makes sense for San Diego. Starting pitchers Blake Snell, Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha are all free agents. The Padres’ farm system is also lacking MLB-caliber starting pitchers with the likes of top prospects Robby Snelling, Dylan Lesko and Adam Mazur ways away from the bigs.

Related: Updated MLB free agent rumors

San Diego Padres haul in potential Juan Soto trade

san diego padres juan soto trad
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the parameters have been set as it relates to what San Diego is looking for in a Soto trade, it’s rather easy to look at the possibilities.

No. 10 in the Yankees’ farm system, Will Warren would make sense as one option for San Diego. He split time between Single-A and Double-A a season ago, pitching to a 10-4 record with a 3.35 ERA while striking out 149 in 129 innings. He’d likely be ready for the Padres’ Opening Day roster.

Though, New York would have to offer up high-end prospects in order to pry Soto away from San Diego. The Yankees’ No. 4 prospect, Chase Hampton could very well be ready for the 2025 season. A sixth-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, he put up a solid 3.63 ERA while striking out 145 batters in 106.2 lower-level innings.

All things equal, Seattle would make the most sense for the Padres to work with. Current starters Logan Gilbert and George Kirby would likely be targets here. Whether the Mariners are willing to pay that price remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have Cade Horton as their No. 2 prospect. He’s expected to hit the Majors in 2025. Their No. 5 prospect, Ben Brown, is certainly Major League ready. Brown appeared in 22 games in Triple-A last season.

Either way we spin it, now that it’s known what the San Diego Padres are looking for in a potential Soto blockbuster trade, things could start heating up in short order.

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