In a post that doesn’t figure to have a long shelf life, I’m just going to add together two things, one involving the San Francisco Giants from a month ago and one from today.
Spoke with Giants’ Farhan Zaidi tonight when he arrived at GM meetings, and he spoke of trades to get younger/more athletic, what Conforto/Manaea decisions mean and manager musical chairs involving candidates he had interviewed: https://t.co/Y1Cp5LfQvz via @sfchronicle— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) November 7, 2023
Heyman says 5 offers for Soto here and names Toronto and San Fran as 2 of them. Do we really think the Pads would trade Soto in division to the Giants, especially after Melvin left for SFG? I have my doubts, but who knows. https://t.co/GcydLoXxId— Michael Marino (@MarinoMLB) December 4, 2023
It was just about a month ago that I ticked off a lot of people on this site by tying Thing 1 to a different Thing 2 about Boston’s Alex Verdugo and so hopefully, applying the same hysterical reasoning (albeit with a different set of facts that more directly point to the Giants), I will tick off far fewer people exploring this possibility of the Giants acquiring literally Juan Soto.
If you don’t know who Juan Soto is, he’s basically trending towards being the next Barry Bonds. Yes, without the fielding skill or the speed on the bases, but for those who are most familiar with the Giants as of the Oracle Park era, he’s the heir apparent from the on base and slugging standpoint. In fact, since Barry Bonds left the league in 2007, Soto has led it in on base percentage (.421). Soto debuted in 2018 and turned 25 this past October 25th.
This is a player the Giants should want and be all in on if he’s available. Why’s he available?
According to MLB Trade Rumors’ projection system, Soto could earn around $33 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility. That’s a hefty price tag for a Padres team that’s in a revenue hole thanks to their media partners at Bally Sports filing for bankruptcy. The team had to borrow money to make its payroll last season and now they need to cut costs.
This is the exact scenario I suggested last week when discussing the team’s potential Plan C, in the event they missed out on Shohei Ohtani and/or Yoshinobu Yamamoto and/or Cody Bellinger. But I dismissed the notion that San Diego would trade within their division. I’m wrong at least 50% of the time, and I think I assumed that even in sports, pride goeth before the fall, but I should’ve stuck to the original point: the Giants are a financial lifeline for the teams needing to cut costs.
If we’re to follow the rumor floating around over the past few days re: the Yankees and Padres talking a Soto trade, then Trent Grisham’s $4.9 million arbitration figure might be included in any deal. Well, guess what? The Giants need an elite centerfielder. That would fit the bill. Or they could also take on Ha-Seong Kim’s remaining $10 million ($8 million in 2024 and a $2 million buyout in 2025). The Giants already have an elite defender at second base (Thairo Estrada), but Kim actually won the Gold Glove this year and last season he was an elite “fill in” at shortstop for the Padres.
It’s doubtful the Padres would trade any of these players to their division rival, but the fact that the Giants are going through the motions of trying to make a deal is important and telling. It means the Giants really are all in this offseason. It strongly suggests that they’ve absorbed the consequences of their “one big move at a time” approach of recent offseasons and adjusted their behavior.
I think those of us who’ve been critical of management and ownership have based that pessimism largely on their track record. I mean, I know I have. And seeing them even mentioned in the same breath as Soto along with Ohtani and Yamamoto is encouraging. Now, we can still hold to recent history to believe that they’re going to whiff on all these moves, but the one thing they haven’t really done in the past decade or so is be all in on multiple players simultaneously.
This comment is supported by Zaidi’s segment on MLB Network this afternoon from the Winter Meetings in Nashville:
Zaidi on MLB Network:— GPT (@giantsprospects) December 4, 2023
1. Payroll flexibility doesn’t win games. Not scared of long-term deals.
2. Have to be prepped to go in multiple directions, teams will have same Plan A
3. Defends folks who are in analytics roles in baseball. Says they’re deeply passionate about game.
There are no negatives to acquiring Juan Soto. The Giants have $33 million. They have extra money to absorb another contract if it means surrendering fewer prospects, too. BUT! They do have prospects to offer. The Padres will mostly be looking for pitching. Their lineup could theoretically survive the loss of Juan Soto. Their ace Yu Darvish ended 2023 with an elbow injury and he’s under contract through 2028. Beyond that, they have Joe Musgrove and really not much other starting pitching depth; so, the Giants would seem to line up.
Trading Juan Soto would cause a division rival some pain in the long-term, too, because it’s very unlikely the Giants would be able to re-sign Juan Soto. It’s not just because his agent is Scott Boras and will want him to test the market, it’s also because left-handed hitters are killed by Oracle Park and so it would strain credulity that he’d want to play there forever.
From the Giants’ standpoint, if there is a Plan A1, Plan A2, and Plan A3, then I think a Soto acquisition coupled with, say, signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto would effectively be “replacing” a potential whiff on Shohei Ohtani in the aggregate, at least in 2024. Between the total AAV cost of both players plus the posting fee you’d probably be paying a little more up front, but with less of a long-term commitment and you’d still get a big surge in international interest. Not on the scale as an Ohtani, of course, but certainly a measurable one from a team standpoint, as I think we can all admit that the franchise has very little going on right now that interests people.
And that’s just one possibility. Maybe the Giants would be happy signing Ohtani and Yamamoto while trading for one season of Juan Soto.