Maybe the next time a player like Juan Soto hits the trade market, the Cubs will choose a place at the table.
That time wasn’t this time.
The Cubs checked in with the Nationals about Soto but quickly checked back out and, not surprisingly, were never players for the 23-year-old superstar, who eventually was traded to the Padres a few hours before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
“We check in with all 29 teams in terms of just who’s available,” general manager Carter Hawkins said Thursday in St. Louis. “You just have to figure out what the price and what matches up with what you’d give up relative to how that’s going to affect your current team.
“It just didn’t feel like the price and the timing was right on that.”
The price, of course, was astronomical — as anticipated for a guy who’s already garnered Ted Williams comparisons before his 25th birthday.
San Diego gave up two of its top-3 prospects and two players who recently graduated from the prospect ranks but were considered the best in baseball entering the season.
It’s at least questionable whether the Cubs could have competed with that package. They didn’t get far enough to find out.
“The Padres, I'm assuming, did that because it was going to have a massive impact on their ability to win the World Series this year, and maybe next year,” Hawkins said.
“We weren't in that position, unfortunately, to leverage our player resources to try to increase our World Series odds this year. So that's the reason we weren't aggressive.”
To play devil’s advocate, Soto hasn’t entered his traditional prime years, despite already being in his fifth season.
While his addition would have done nothing for the Cubs’ World Series odds in 2022, he’s under club control through 2024 and, at his age, could be a foundational piece for the next decade — assuming the Cubs would have, in turn, been willing to pay for a record extension.
On the other hand, Soto would have come at the cost of upending a farm system the Cubs have spent close to two years improving — a system they’re counting on to help expedite their rebuild.
A Soto trade or something comparable would have done nothing for the Cubs’ World Series odds in 2022, and for wiping out the farm system it may have had no impact in the short term.
“If you’re going from 15 to 20 [percent chance to win the World Series], that's pretty significant,” Hawkins said. “I heard 10 to 15.
“That's pretty significant, and that’s the time you pull that lever. But if it's going from zero to zero [percent], or one to six in a particular year, then it's probably not going to be the suitor that's going to put together all of those prospects.
“Yeah, we would do it in a vacuum, but not at a level that another team that might be in a higher leverage position would want to do it.”
Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer