This week, the Willson Contreras-Padres rumors kicked up. And this morning, the outfield market seemed to start ramping up.
Put those two together, and you get the latest out of San Diego, via The Athletic (emphasis added):
The Nationals will not trade Soto before the Aug. 2 deadline unless they receive a historic haul. San Diego still wields a significant cache of young talent but perhaps not the financial flexibility to field a championship roster around Soto. So, the Padres have every reason to continue their pursuits of other trade candidates. At least one team could help them address multiple needs: According to sources, the Padres have discussed the idea of adding both of the Cubs’ All-Stars — catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Ian Happ — to their lineup.
Three very big things to unpack there:
1.) The fact that the Padres may not be the best fit for Juan Soto is significant, as they would indeed have to look elsewhere to bolster their lineup;
2.) The need for BOTH a guy like Ian Happ and a guy like Willson Contreras is obviously pretty compelling information when you start thinking about what a huge package could look like (especially if the Cubs ALSO took on a bad contract in the deal); and
3.) The fact that the Contreras-Happ mention is the ONLY thing discussed in the same breath as the pursuit of Soto strikes me as meaningful.
Let me linger on that last one for a moment: no, those two are not a “replacement” for Soto, but as we’ve discussed in other contexts, if you aren’t going to land Soto and still want to upgrade your lineup, you will have to look elsewhere (even if the other options are not Juan Soto (who is?)). And the only team mentioned here for the Padres – in this article, at least – is the Cubs. With two of their biggest trade pieces. Yes, clearly, this has been discussed.
You know by now that the Cubs and Padres have discussed trades, at length, over the past few years. The Yu Darvish deal got done, but many others have not. Even still, it means there is an operational familiarity there, which could make putting together a deal of this magnitude more feasible.
And there would definitely be some magnitude.
The return on either of Contreras or Happ, alone, is expected to be quite meaningful, so pairing them together could mean the Cubs realistically look at the very top of the Padres’ prospect pool (minus C.J. Abrams, probably?), and/or could get creative with big league pieces. Again, if the Cubs were also to take on a bad contract like Eric Hosmer’s in the deal? I think you could safely dream on just about any return.
Would the Padres actually MAKE that enormous of a move? I tend to think the more excited you get as a seller about the scope of a huge return, the less excited the buyer would get about actually making such a big move. It might depend on how confident the Padres are that Fernando Tatis Jr. will be returning soon at full strength and impact, at which point they may have decided that, once again, they really need to push the pedal down.