Did Padres’ A.J. Preller hint at a Juan Soto extension this offseason?
By Jerry Trotta
The San Diego Padres suffered a devastating loss in the NLCS. While players will spend the offseason resting (at first) after an exhausting regular season before gearing up for 2023, general manager A. J. Preller and the front office will be hard at work laying the groundwork for another playoff run.
It’s tough to say what will be first on Preller’s agenda. Addressing the laundry list of free agents, including Will Meyers, Jurickson Profar, Robert Suarez, Mike Clevinger and trade-deadline pickups Josh Bell and Brandon Drury is a good place to start.
While the return of Fernando Tatis Jr., whom Preller expects to resume baseball activities by spring training, carries plenty of appeal, figuring out Juan Soto’s future is probably the biggest question hanging over San Diego this offseason.
With two more years of arbitration eligibility, Soto won’t become a free agent until after the 2024 campaign. With that big of a cushion, the Padres normally wouldn’t jump through hoops to get a deal done. If Soto was a homegrown talent, San Diego could bide its time until after the 2023 season.
Given the urgency to get Soto signed, Preller hinted at extending the all-world talent as soon as this offseason after the Padres’ NLCS defeat.
Did Padres GM AJ Preller hint at a Juan Soto extension this offseason?
"“Probably the biggest thing, at least with Hader and with Juan Soto, is this carries forward,” Preller said, via MLB.com’s AJ. Cassavell. “Ultimately, it wasn’t just a rental piece. They’re guys that, you know, in Juan’s case should be here for many years to come.”“We’ll have that conversation. From Juan’s standpoint, he’s getting to know the city and getting to know the organization. When we made the deal we made it knowing that we’d have him for three pennant races but also understanding that … he’s an incredibly talented player, an impact player, and we’ll have those conversations here. This offseason is kind of taking the temperature, seeing where his head is at going forward.”"
That’s music to the ears of Padres fans.
While extending Soto might not be the first order of business relative to the team’s free agent list, it should be somewhere near the top of the pecking order after San Diego gave up a huge chunk of its elite farm system to acquire Soto from the Nationals. Like netting Josh Hader from Milwaukee, it was a win-now move, but one that wouldn’t have been made if Preller didn’t see Soto as a long-term piece.
Of course, signing Soto will come at a price. Before getting shipped to San Diego, Soto reportedly rejected a $440 million extension offer from Washington.
Was that more about the generational talent wanting out of DC and to play for a contender? Or does he value himself at more than $31.4 million per year (the contract was for a reported 14 years)? Perhaps it’s a combination of both, but at least Preller and Co. have an idea of what Soto is looking for.
If fans understand the urgency to get Soto signed before he hits the open market, odds are the Padres organization is well aware of it, too. The important thing is San Diego isn’t bidding against anyone and aren’t on a deadline. Based on Preller’s comments, these conversations might start soon, if they haven’t already.