Juan Soto has secret talks for a Padres deal before Peter Seidler’s death

New Yankees superstar Juan Soto is one big reason why they’re off to a great start. But it can be told now: At one point last summer, there was a solid chance Soto might stay long term in San Diego. 

Beloved Padres owner Peter Seidler reached out in summer to start negotiating a potential megadeal, Soto’s agent Scott Boras said. And before Seidler’s health took a turn for the worse, those secret talks began very positively.

Sadly, the win-at-all-costs Seidler died Nov. 14 at age 63, his World Series dream unfulfilled. 

There’s a narrative that Soto’s time in San Diego was a disappointment — and the Padres did badly underperform in 2023 at 82-80 — but Seidler obviously wasn’t pinning the ’23 team failure on his star slugger.

“The owner loved Juan Soto. He was sixth in MVP, a Silver Slugger, an All-Star,” Boras told The Post. “Peter called about wanting to pursue him, and there were discussions about wanting to keep him. And unfortunately, it did not work out because of his health.”

Some may be (slightly) surprised Seidler would foot the enormous price to extend Soto since the Padres almost surely were losing money with his ultra-generous spending for a midsized market. But really, it shouldn’t be that shocking since Seidler’s sole focus was on the standings, the bottom line be damned.

There was a chance that Juan Soto could’ve stayed long-term in San Diego. Getty Images
Peter Seidler is pictured at a Padres news conference in December 2022. AP

Some believe Soto prefers the East Coast, so his parents, to whom he’s very close, could see him more. But Soto “really liked the owner” and wasn’t at all unhappy as a Padre, Boras said.

“He did well there,” Boras pointed out.

Though the talks were kept quiet at the time (even to folks around the team), some connected to the team say they believe a Soto deal in San Diego would have gotten done had Seidler lived. One reason is that not only Seidler but GM A.J. Preller also loved Soto — Preller expressed sadness upon trading Soto to the Yankees — and the other is that Seidler did everything to win without regard to payroll or tax. No one saw the Xander Bogaerts ($280 million, 11 years) deal coming, not when they already were strong at shortstop, or the Padres becoming one of MLB’s top three spenders.

Folks there viewed Seidler as a smaller-market Steve Cohen. 

Though Soto’s stay in San Diego was indeed mixed due to team failures, there’s been only positivity about Soto’s Yankees stay. Teammates seem to love Soto, and some even appear to be trying to adopt a patient plate approach — Soto’s calling card. 

The Yankees are getting the best of Soto. His defense looks solid, or even better, since extensive winter work with outfield whiz Jackie Bradley Jr., and he’s accepted batting second in Aaron Boone’s lineups. Boras disputed the idea Soto didn’t like San Diego but added, “He’s also very happy in New York.”

With the Yankees surrendering their rotation depth to get him, they almost certainly will make a big play to keep him long term (with potential competition coming from the crosstown Mets). And there’s reason to believe Soto, a free agent after the year, will like it in New York thanks to the storied team’s winning history.

Many questioned Soto declining the Nationals’ then-record bid of $440M for 14 years, and those criticisms grew as the Padres struggled. Boras said Nats ownership being in flux at the time — or “faceless,” as he called it — caused them not to even counter. “He didn’t know the direction of the team,” Boras said. 

The Yankees have gotten the best version of Juan Soto during their 6-1 start. USA TODAY Sports

The Nats owning Lerner family eventually took the team off the market, but they’re rebuilding, starting with their trade of Soto for several top prospects.

Had he signed in D.C., Boras said, “He’d be sitting in [the second division] rather than New York.”

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