Possibility of extension Juan Soto with Padres
SAN DIEGO – Maybe it was a Freudian slip. Maybe it was wishful thinking. Or maybe AJ Preller is just aware of what he wants.
Asked to reassess his Trade Deadline splash three months later, the Padres general manager reflected on the impact Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury had on the team’s run to the National League Championship. Series. Then he had this to say:
“Probably the most important thing, at least with Hader and with Juan Soto, is that it continues,” Preller said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t just a rental room. These are guys who, you know, in Juan’s case, should be here for many years to come.”
Hmmm. Many years to come?
Soto still has two years of arbitration eligibility, which means he isn’t expected to enter the free agent market until the 2024 season. But the Padres gave up a significant part of their farm system to acquire Soto in as part of an eight-man deal at the trade deadline. So, naturally, they’re interested in locking him up for the long haul.
“We’ll have that conversation,” Preller said. “From Juan’s perspective, he’s getting to know the city and getting to know the organization. When we made the deal, we did it knowing we’d have it for three pennant races, but also knowing understanding that… he’s an incredibly talented player, an impact player, and we’ll be having those conversations here. This offseason is kind of taking the temperature, seeing where his head lies going forward .
Soto, of course, is a generational superstar in his prime. He only turned 24 on Tuesday. Prior to the trade that sent him to San Diego, he turned down a $440 million extension with the Nationals.
It’s unclear what it would take to get an extension, but the Padres look set to pursue at least one this winter. Since his arrival, Soto has refused to comment on a possible extension. But speaking after the Padres lost in Game 5 in Philadelphia, he expressed his joy at playing in San Diego.
“Since I came here, they’ve made me feel at home – the crowd, my teammates, everyone,” Soto said. “It feels good. I was very comfortable here, even when things weren’t going my way at first.”
Indeed, Soto struggled upon his arrival in San Diego — at least by his own high standards. He hit .236/.388/.390 with six homers in 52 games after the trade.
But Soto is the author of some of the playoffs’ biggest hits, including key home runs in Games 4 and 5 of the NLCS, to go along with the tying single in Game 4 of the Division Series against the Dodgers and the two grueling . -run a single against Edwin Díaz in Game 3 of the Wild Card series against the Mets.
“Since I got here, it’s been amazing, these fans, how loud they can be and how fun they can be,” Soto said. “We are going to come back next year stronger and more ready to go. … We have a very good team, really talented. A very young team. I think we can do a lot of damage.”
Padres will consider 1B meeting(s)
As for Bell and Drury, Deadline’s two true hires, it’s possible the Padres are looking for a reunion in 2023. They have a vacancy at first base — and extra playing time available to the designated hitter. That means Preller expects to be in touch with Bell and Drury, as well as Wil Myers — the trio that formed the Padres’ 1B/DH squad during the playoffs.
“All three of them have a storyline,” Preller said. “We will definitely have a conversation with their agents and them personally, where they are, what they think. I wouldn’t shut the door on anything.”
Offensively, first base is the biggest question mark of the offseason in a Padres lineup that will fire most of its starters. Part of that equation, of course, is how the Padres plan to use their designated hitter.
For much of the season, their roster has lacked power (although that should change some in 2023 with the return of Fernando Tatis Jr.). Would they be looking for a DH/1B type thumper like Bell? Or would they look for a more versatile piece like Myers or Drury?
“In general, having some flexibility and some ability to spin around is appealing,” Preller said. “We’ll look at how the whole roster fits together and what the best options are out there. … If there’s someone who fits and is more set in that place, we’ll look at them.”
The continuity of the coaching staff?
Last offseason, Bob Melvin set about building a coaching staff from scratch, after being hired in early November as manager of the Padres. He opted for a unique and diverse group, and a year into his tenure, Melvin was happy with the results.
“I think that coaching staff has been very inspiring to the players,” Melvin said. “All of these guys had a part to play in getting the attention of the group they were responsible for. I was happy with everyone.”
Preller noted how pleased he was with the work of the rest of the coaching staff when Melvin missed time earlier in the season twice, due to prostate surgery and COVID-19.
Both Preller and Melvin have said they can’t fully commit to bringing the coaching staff back for 2023 until they’ve gone through a few post-season meetings. Also, it’s always possible that other teams will contact the Padres to ask them to interview their coaches.
“Nothing is certain,” Melvin said. “But we were happy with what the staff did.”