Is Juan Soto worth the biggest card in the Blue Jays' hand?

It'll take a lot to reel in the best player available on the block, it's just a matter of how much is too much.

San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox
San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

It’s no secret the Toronto Blue Jays are taking the opportunity to win in 2024 very seriously, with the headlines going around of them vying for superstars Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto.

The two would have to be brought in through different ways, with the latter being available as a trade option with one year left before hitting the open market next winter. The New York Yankees have been reportedly going after the 25-year-old as well, with talks being said to have stalled between the clubs.

The demand brought forth by San Diego was a package of seven players, which supposedly is too much for the Yankees to agree to. It's possible this is the Blue Jays' golden opportunity to jump ahead in the sweepstakes.

Juan Soto trade talks between the Yankees and Padres are "at a complete stalemate" per MLB insider Bob Nightengale. The Padres are asking New York for seven players, which is, understandably, seen as unrealistic.

With this in mind, it’s important to think about what this could mean for the Blue Jays as they continue their pursuit of the soon-to-be free agent. Just how many players would Toronto have to part with in order to land a deal, and are they actually willing to pull the trigger if push comes to shove?

Time to part with Tiedemann?

It’s obvious that a player of Soto’s caliber is going to field a sizable return, especially with the bounce back year that saw him hit .275/.410/.519. His rental status would surely dumb it down a little bit as the cash strapped Padres look to shed payroll this off-season, but Jays fans can only be so optimistic, the reality is they’re going to have to part with a player(s) of high potential.

The main name that comes to mind is Ricky Tiedemann. Being the Blue Jays’ no. 1 prospect certainly brings light to what the ideal package could look like, especially with the team needing to beef up the system following the commencement of a title contending window that has seen them ship out several key prospects. It may be smarter to preserve some of the organizational depth and place more value on a high-end package headliner.

After all, it’s also about what San Diego deems valuable enough of a return to ship out Soto. Tiedemann, who turned 21 in August, has looked like one of the most talented pitching prospects in the club’s history. Pitching across four different levels of minor-league ball in 2023, the Florida project racked up a K/9 of 16.2, with his fastball topping in the mid-upper 90s and boasting a devastating changeup.

His ceiling is very high despite injury to his left bicep in May, and any organization that could land him would be smart to follow in the footsteps Toronto has taken to slowly integrate him back to the pitcher he can be.

Tiedemann projects to be a one or two starter in the majors if all goes well, and it’s easy to see why the Padres would be all over him in trade negotiations.

Another arm that could be dealt in the scenario of a Soto trade is Alek Manoah. Despite a disastrous 2023 campaign that saw him get demoted to the FCL and ultimately shut down for the rest of the season, he’s still one year removed from a season that saw him finish top three in American League Cy Young voting, and pictures of him looking leaner this offseason definitely look promising.

Toronto has a few other options in the farm to throw in as well if the Padres get really hungry, such as Orelvis Martinez, Adam Macko and Chad Dallas to name a few.

Why the push is necessary

All in all, it’s going to take value to get value, and the question becomes whether or not the Blue Jays should ship out one of, or multiple of these top pieces to try and go for Soto.

The answer is a simple 'yes'.

It doesn’t even matter, frankly, if Toronto is able to ink an extension with the Dominican outfielder, because the time to be serious is now.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are two years shy of entering free agency, and with ownership not committing to either player yet, it’s important to show them that the club is willing to go all out and build a serious World Series contender following back-to-back years of postseason failure. 

The pitching is another important aspect, as this is the year where the majority of the staff will return following a very successful season. Even if Manoah is dealt, you can assume the same staff will simply be rolled out with high expectations, and the bullpen needing seldom additions with Jordan Hicks being the lone high-leverage reliever from last year's squad on the open market.

More importantly, this can be huge for the Ohtani sweepstakes. It's clear that Rogers is willing to foot the bill to land the two-time MVP, and going after Soto could help sweeten the deal in the eyes of Ohtani and his representatives. 

Even if getting both would leave the Blue Jays way over the tax threshold with little room to spend big on anyone else, the rest of the team would be set with marginal holes that could be fielded through call-ups and smaller scale signings. 

With the team's major recent free agent signings all on the wrong side of 30 and tons of money still tied up to them, it's also important to consider that the window is smaller than what it was after the 2020 season.

Torontonians need to remember that despite the recent struggles in October, this is still a very good team that could be taken to the next level if the hammer is willing to be dropped, and there isn’t a better time to do it than now.