Superstar Juan Soto joins the New York Yankees in a seven-player blockbuster with the San Diego Padres in offseason’s biggest trade.
The New York Yankees have made by far the biggest trade of the winter by acquiring OF Juan Soto. The trade will bring Juan Soto and OF Trent Grisham from the San Diego Padres to the New York Yankees in exchange for SP Michael King, SP Drew Thorpe, C Kyle Higashioka, SP Jhony Brito, and SP Randy Vasquez.
In 2023, the then 24-year-old Soto posted a .275/.410/.519 slash line, slugging 35 home runs and driving in 109 runs while leading all of MLB with 132 free passes. Soto has become one of the best players on the planet due to his unparalleled plate discipline and above-average power at such a young age. He earned the nickname “Childish Bambino” long before joining the Bombers.
While Soto is the clear headliner, fans should also pay attention to Grisham. The Yankees have fielded a poor defensive outfield for years now, so adding a Gold Glover will be a nice change of pace. Grisham is one of the very best defensive center fielders at a premium position, and he is overqualified as a fourth outfielder. At the plate, Grisham is below average with serious strikeout issues, but he runs into one every now and then.
King, the biggest piece headed back to San Diego, was traded from the Miami Marlins to New York in 2017 in a swap for 1B Garret Cooper and SP Caleb Smith. In 2023, the right hander posted a 2.75 ERA in 104.0 IP and is under team control through 2025. The Yankees transitioned him to the rotation late in the year, and that clearly increased his value.
Thorpe, the other marquee player in the deal, was a second-round pick in the 2022 June Amateur Draft by the Yankees out of Cal Poly. In 139.1 professional innings for the Yankees between single-A and double-A, the right-handed Thorpe owns a 2.58 ERA and 0.983 WHIP. In prospect circles, he has a big “up” arrow next to his name after pitching to a 1.48 ERA in 30.1 innings with Somerset.
Kyle Higashioka, the career backup catcher, will also be headed to San Diego. The longtime Yankee backstop is entering his age 34 season and owns a career 0.9 WAR and 85 OPS+. The Yankees plan to have prospect Austin Wells and platinum glove winner Jose Trevino platoon behind the dish in 2023, making Higashioka the odd-man-out and perfect sweetener on this blockbuster deal.
Vasquez and Brito were both mid-level prospects who debuted this past season. In the Majors, Brito pitched to a 4.28 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 90.1 innings across 25 games, including 13 starts. Vasquez, meanwhile, had a 2.87 ERA in 37.2 innings with 33 strikeouts encompassing 11 games and five starts. The two swingmen will compete to earn rotation spots in SoCal.
More to come
Juan Soto is a free agent after 2024, which makes the Yankees’ acquisition of the superstar outfielder a harbinger of moves to come. As far as extension talks go, Soto and his agent Scott Boras have made it very clear the slugger will reach free agency without a contract and test the open market. That means if the Yankees felt the need to acquire the star, General Manager Brian Cashman intends to go all in for the 2024 season. It is also possible the Yanks will pursue Soto next winter.
Already, the Yankees have traded for left-handed OF Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox, and the Bombers have a set meeting with Japanese superstar ace, SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto. If the Yankees are all in on 2024 (as it seems like they are), a pact with Yamamoto seems inevitable. They can certainly afford to sign him.
Adding the Japanese superstar would equip the Yankees with the most formidable starting rotation in baseball. Reigning Cy Young winner SP Gerrit Cole, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and SP Carlos Rodon would headline the three-tipped spear of the Yanks’ starting 5. That is a deadly top three for any club unfortunate enough to meet the Yankees in the playoffs.
Stay tuned for news, as Yamamoto and the Yankees meet this Monday.
Trouble in Paradise
Over the past 4 years, the San Diego Padres have spent money like it’s going out of style. In 2023, the Padres sported a $253 MM payroll, the third highest in baseball behind the Mets ($344 MM) and Yankees ($279 MM). The team of shortstops did not pan out, as the Padres missed the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Friars, their TV deal with Bally Sports reached an end and left the Padres in dire economic straits, causing the San Diego club to take out a $50 MM loan this past October. In search of financial relief, San Diego put 25-year-old phenom OF Juan Soto on the trade block ahead of the offseason.
Time will tell what awaits San Diego and New York in 2024, but Juan Soto to the Bronx is undoubtedly the first step in the Yankees return to the Evil Empire of the late 1990s.