Padres' Preller: Trading a player of Soto's caliber was 'very difficult'
San Diego Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller said it wasn't an easy decision to trade star outfielder Juan Soto to the New York Yankees on Wednesday in a seven-player blockbuster.
"It's very difficult to make a deal where you're trading a player the caliber of Juan Soto, but if we did, that we wanted to make sure we shored up a bunch of needs. We were able to get some depth with quality," Preller said, according to MLB.com's AJ Cassavell.
Soto and fellow outfielder Trent Grisham were shipped to the Bronx for a package of players built around pitchers Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez, and Drew Thorpe, plus catcher Kyle Higashioka. Preller said he couldn't pass up adding that much pitching depth to the organization.
"We needed pitching," Preller said. "We knew we had some free-agent defections here this offseason. ... We get some pitchers that, from our perspective, are going to be with us for the next four or five years. A group that we can build with."
Preller and the Padres entered the offseason with four key pitchers entering the free-agent market: Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Nick Martinez. That left their starting rotation barren beyond Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove.
Acquiring pitching wasn't the only factor in a Soto trade occurring. Preller said the deal gives the Padres more payroll flexibility and a chance to look at some other players in free agency.
"You have a budget, and you try and make the team work within the budget," the executive said, per 97.3 The Fan. "It definitely gives us two things: some flexibility and then also some clarity on what the rest of the offseason looks like."
Soto, who was projected to earn $33 million in salary next season through arbitration, was an unlikely extension candidate for the Padres. Preller said a formal extension offer was never made, but talks with his representatives made it feel like he was unlikely to sign one.