St. Louis finally makes good on their Juan Soto dreams
Cardinals receive: OF Juan Soto
Padres receive: OF Dylan Carlson, LHP Matthew Liberatore, RHP Gordon Graceffo, OF Alec Burleson
I'll be frank, this feels the least likely of the five blockbusters, but I really wanted to include it because there's reason to believe the Cardinals could explore it (pure speculation at the moment) and it would make this team's offense neck and neck with the Atlanta Braves' historic unit.
First, let's take a quick look at what the Padres appear to be asking for from the Yankees at the moment.
King and Thorpe are much better assets than Liberatore and Graceffo, so maybe including Steven Matz would make sense for the Padres as well to grow their pitching depth. But the chance to move Soto for four players with lots of team control, two being potential rotation pieces long-term and two being impact outfield bats should be intriguing value.
The Padres also move off of Soto's $30 million in this deal, so they now can use that financial flexibility to improve other areas of the roster as well. The Padres need multiple pieces in return for Soto, which is why I think the Cardinals could get involved. They talked with the Nationals about Soto up until the trade with the Padres in 2021, and at that time, the package would have looked something like Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Masyn Winn, Dylan Carlson, and more. Why wouldn't they be interested when the price is far lower?
I know, their rotation needs more help. If they acquired Soto, they would surely move off of Matz and O'Neill, freeing up about $18 million they could use to grab another arm (or even still pursue a Cease deal). Now that they have Gray at the top of their rotation and depth behind him, the pitching staff is closer to league average than the bottom three. And look at this juggernaut lineup they'd be creating:
CF Lars Nootbaar
1B Paul Goldschmidt
LF Juan Soto
3B Nolan Arenado
C Willson Contreras
DH Nolan Gorman
RF Jordan Walker
2B Brendan Donovan
SS Masyn Winn
Um. Yeah. That lineup is insane. While the Padres boasted an elite top-four in their lineup, the Cardinals would have eight different guys who could be 20% better than league average at the plate, with four to five of those hitters having the potential to be among the best bats in baseball. The only team in baseball whose lineup would stack up with theirs is the Braves.
I don't feel great about their pitching, but creating a historic group like this offensively is probably worth it. The Cardinals can then use the rest of the offseason and up until the trade deadline to figure out how to upgrade their pitching staff further, knowing that if they do, they truly are a favorite to win it all.
Even if Soto does not resign, the assets they gave up for one year of him aren't crazy. And honestly, I think their chances of resigning him would be higher than people think, especially if they win.
Think about it, Soto just came from two extremely dysfunctional situations (not just performance issues like the Cardinals had last year, but two clubhouses in need of repair). He'd spend an entire year with high character guys leaders like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, and rub shoulders with a fun, dynamic group led by Willson Contreras, Lars Nootbaar, Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, and company.
If the Cardinals are going to pay a player, it's someone who is a future Hall of Famer. Soto will be just 26 years old when his new contract begins in 2025. That means any team paying him is getting at least 6-7 more Hall of Fame-level seasons from him, and potentially more. The way he hits is so pure and so elite that it should age as well as anyone can, making him a hitter you can likely trust in his late 30s. And honestly, he's not even going to be 36 until 2035. If you pay him knowing you're probably going to have a top 5 hitter through 2035...even a club like St. Louis could hand out that kind of money.
Do I think it will happen? No, but I think it's a really interesting concept, and one that I wouldn't be shocked to hear the Cardinals join the running for this week.