The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers open the 2024 season against each other on March 20 in Seoul, South Korea. However, one Padres insider writes that there is a "decent" chance that Juan Soto is not a part of the Padres lineup when that game gets underway.
Is time running out for Juan Soto in a San Diego Padres uniform?
In a mailbag for The Athletic (subscription required), Dennis Lin, who covers the Padres for the publication, was asked by a reader if the Padres would be patient while making a decision about the future of Soto with the franchise. The All-Star has one year of arbitration left before he is scheduled to hit free agency prior to the 2025 season. With that in mind, and San Diego rumored to be cutting payroll heading into the 2024 campaign, could the Padres be on their own timeline to trade Soto?
Lin believes it is a real possibility.
"When the team treks to South Korea in March, there seems to be a decent chance Soto won’t be on the flight," he writes.
Soto was among the most valuable Padres in 2023, a season which ended in disappointment after such high hopes heading into the campaign. Soto slashed .275/.410/.519 with 35 home runs and 109 RBI while playing in all 162 games. His 5.6 bWAR was the third-highest total for the Padres and his OPS+ of 158 led the team by a wide stretch (Xander Bogaerts was second with 120).
While trading Soto might be the cost-conscious thing to do (if they indeed do decide to make a deal), it will certainly force the Padres to figure out a way to replace his offense. For a team just one season removed from reaching the NLCS but with plenty of questions abiout its roster, that may be a very tough thing to do.