Fernando Tatis Jr. makes last-ditch plea to keep Juan Soto amid Yankees trade rumors

If nothing else has worked so far...
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Is Juan Soto beginning to slip through the Padres' fingertips, or did he already slip in mid-September when the team's significant loan couldn't solve all of their forthcoming payroll problems?

It's clearly San Diego's preference to continue to compete and put Soto at the forefront of their sales pitch. After all, they're stuck with Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Fernando Tatis Jr. long-term. These are immobile contracts doled out to winning (or, at least, extremely talented players). Bottoming out will be difficult. Sinking to the middle might be the reality. The middle is the worst place to be. If they're going to have this trio on the books anyway, why not retain Soto for one last go 'round?

Except ... 2023 didn't work. Scott Boras will take Soto to free agency. That's a guarantee. Soto's owed ~$32 million for 2024 in his final year of arbitration. That's "best player in baseball" money. He's one of the best players in baseball. A team in dire financial straits, and in desperate need of pitching, would be better served biting the bullet, making the trade, and signing Jung-hoo Lee for a fraction of the cost. The Yankees, with a bottom-tier lineup and upper-crust expectations, should be more than willing to take advantage of the Padres' desperation, offering two or three or four big-league-caliber pitchers in exchange for adding Soto to a year of Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole's prime.

But you can forgive San Diego's stars for not being ready to let go quite yet. Tatis Jr. told reporter Franklin Mirabal that he still wants one more shot at creating something "special" with Soto, even if the chips seem to be falling somewhere else across the country.

Yankees pursuing Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. wishes they wouldn't

In fairness to Tatis Jr., it still feels like the second-likeliest destination for Soto is his current hometown. But, in unfairness to Tatis Jr. ... the world is unfair, and Soto's future appears to be written in the Padres' unbalanced checkbook.

Talks are expected to heat up between the Yankees and Padres during the Winter Meetings, where the exchanging of names will hopefully land comfortably on a reasonable middle ground that doesn't include Jasson Dominguez. The slugger's cost is exorbitant and his future is uncertain. Objectively, Tatis Jr. and the Padres will make out very well if they can woo Lee (Ha-Seong Kim's close friend), add two or three top-level pitchers from the Yankees, sign a few innings eaters and reload.

But the Yankees will still come out on top. Soto's that special. And Tatis Jr. knows it.