Juan Soto trade talks are heating up as we speak. Atlanta is rumored to be a contender for the slugger's services. The Braves are among the teams who might be able and willing to pay the price, considering they are among the favorites for a World Series Championship next season. We take the cautious perspective here and explain why the Braves should not consider a trade for Juan Soto.
Juan Soto trade appears to be imminent
Why the Braves are considered a possibility for Juan Soto
There are a few teams that might have what it takes to pry Soto from the Padres while entering the 2024 season as a top contender for a championship. The Braves also have an opening in leftfield after declining Eddie Rosario's 2024 option.
The Braves shaved off a significant amount of payroll with a flurry of non-tenders and option rejections last week. Alex Anthopoulos has also stated payroll will be increasing so who are we to not believe this option is at least on the table?
Braves superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. also stoked the Soto fires by publicly supporting the notion of a Soto trade on X.
Why a Juan Soto trade would be a mistake
The asking price will be high
This part should be obvious but we know the asking price will be high. We won't run through all of Soto's resume to this point but consider this from MLB.com: He has the sixth-highest OPS+ for any player through his age-24 season with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances. Soto's 157 OPS+ trails only Dick Allen (161), Mickey Mantle (166), Albert Pujols (167), Mike Trout (170), and Frank Thomas (177). He's ahead of names like Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Reggie Jackson.
The Padres need starting pitching
The Padres are in desperate need of starting pitching. They are losing Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Nick Martinez, and Josh Hader to free agency. They need innings. If they are giving up Juan Soto they probably want quality pitchers that have multiple years of team control in return. However, the Braves are not in a position where they can afford to give up young starting pitching for a few reasons. They still need to add to the rotation to make a run for 2024.
Braves would be trading long-term value for a one-year rental
Fox Sports' Jake Mintz thinks that AJ Smith-Shawver and Vaughn Grissom could be enough to get it done. That is not as bad of a price as I was thinking but it's still a lot of long-term value for a one-year rental. Remember, AJSS turned 21 a few days ago and didn't start pitching until his senior year in high school. His arm is truly a gift from God. Vaughn Grissom's bat has a very bright future. He has a .921 OPS over 102 games at Triple-A.
Soto has one year of arbitration left and will hit the open market after the 2024 season. On top of that, he is projected to earn between $30-33 million in 2024. That's a huge chunk of money... and the Braves still need pitching. Not to mention, they need wiggle room for potential moves at the deadline. I know Juan Soto is an other-worldly hitter but I still think the team needs to lock down the rotation before adding ANOTHER bat to an already stacked lineup.
Trading for Soto will hinder Atlanta's ability to bring in more starting pitching
The Braves entered last season with the hope of having Michael Soroka and Kyle Wright in the rotation and really ended up with neither. Having traded both Soroka and Wright this offseason, the Braves have three spots locked down in the rotation. With the long-term in mind, two of those spots will be vacated at the end of the year with a likely retirement from Charlie Morton and Max Fried entering free agency. Trading a guy like AJSS puts the Braves in an even deeper hole both next year and beyond.
The team is already on pace to set a new payroll record in 2024 as it is. Adding Soto's $30+ million and a couple of brand-name starting pitchers seems completely out of the question to me.
Don't forget that Soto is a one-year rental. He turned down a $440 million extension from the Nationals. He's almost to the open market and nothing will stop him from getting there. Even if he was open to an extension, I don't think the Braves would be interested in the massive price tag + number of years that will accompany Juan Soto.
Keep in mind that he is represented by Scott Boras and likely won't entertain an extension. There are currently zero players represented by Scott Boras on the Braves... so take that for what it's worth.
I most definitely would not be upset to see a headline saying the Braves traded for Juan Soto, but I doubt it will happen. The Braves are built for the long term and the farm system already has slim pickings. A costly one-year rental in the outfield doesn't seem like a wise decision for a team whose top priority heading into the future (2024 and beyond) is starting pitching.