With the World Series getting underway on Friday and the Cubs once again watching at home, the stakes of an incredibly important offseason are weighing on the team's front office and fanbase as the North Siders look to revamp from an 83-win campaign that fizzled out in September.
While being involved in the pursuit for Shohei Ohtani and retaining Cody Bellinger are expected to be priorities for the Cubs this offseason, more opportunities may be awaiting on the trade market.
According to a report by Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, the Cubs are expected to be active in the pursuit of what may be this offseason's most coveted prize on the trade market.
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Sources have indicated to Levine that the Cubs are expected to be involved in the Juan Soto trade sweepstakes, as expectations grow across the league that the San Diego Padres will move the superstar one year before he hits free agency in an effort to shed payroll.
Soto, who made $23 million in 2023 under arbitration and is arbitration eligible again in 2024, where he is projected to receive a $10 million raise, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
The Padres, who emerged as one of the league's top spenders in recent years after decades of being a timid buyer in free agency, are expected to scale back payroll after inking nine-figure contracts with Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Fernando Tatis Jr. in recent years.
A pursuit of Soto for the Cubs would likely involve paying a significant prospect price in addition to some big league talent likely headed the other way as well.
Though the Cubs' farm system is at its most formidable in nearly a decade, it is still not quite at the depth that it was when trades for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana were made.
While it's fair to suspect that top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong is untouchable, the Cubs could be in a position where other top prospects such as Kevin Alcantara and Alexander Canario are involved in trade discussions.
Though the Cubs have long been known for positional depth, the Padres, who may not retain impending free agent and likely Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, may be inclined to poach pitching talent from the North Siders as well.
With the Cubs potentially facing a logjam of pitching talent, the Cubs could be inclined to move one of Javier Assad or Jordan Wicks in such a deal, both high-upside arms with rotation potential and big league experience that the Padres could see play a role in their rotation next season.
Perhaps the most tantalizing trade chip on the big league team for the Padres could be Christopher Morel, a high-upside power bat who despite above average showings at the plate in two straight seasons, is yet to have a permanent home in the field.
While Cubs fans can dream of a world in which both Cody Bellinger is retained and Juan Soto is acquired via trade, it's likely one or the other, if anything, for the Cubs this offseason.
In the event of acquiring Soto, the Cubs could replace Bellinger's center field production and slide him into an outfield configuration with Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki for most games.
The Cubs not retaining Bellinger would also leave a potential hole at first base, with two free agents in Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario manning the position for the Cubs in much of the final two months of the season.
Though the Cubs could also consider trading for Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, the farm system's depth could likely only afford one of the aforementioned trades.
The North Siders have the artillery to pursue Juan Soto, and with the opportunity to acquire generational talent to a rising team, the Cubs have an obligation to be involved in the sweepstakes.