It’s been a while — heck, some might even say it’s been more than a decade — but the New York Yankees have finally caught their whale: Juan Soto is headed to the Big Apple.
Despite being a generational talent, Soto has now shockingly been traded twice before his club control has even expired. And furthering the surprise is the San Diego Padres, the surprise-spending darlings of the last few seasons, being in a position where they’re unable to keep their superstar outfielder.
In exchange, however, they will receive some much-needed financial relief (Soto is expected to carry around a $27 million arbitration salary in 2024, according to Spotrac) and depth pieces to round out their team. The first highlight of the deal, Michael King, has flashed signs of brilliance over his couple seasons in the Bronx, rocking a 2.60 ERA and a 30.6% strikeout rate across 155.2 innings since 2022.
The other major piece is Drew Thorpe, the Yankees current top pitching prospect and Just Baseball’s No. 78 overall prospect, that should help bolster a secretly-strong Padres farm system, despite their wheeling-and-dealing ways costing them many prospects over the years.
Johnny Brito and Randy Vásquez also provide some depth to a Padres pitching staff that is likely losing Cy Young winner Blake Snell — and potentially the surprisingly effective starters in Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha — to free agency. Backup catcher Kyle Higashioka should also serve San Diego well with their current starter, Luis Campusano, still being quite young and rough-around-the-edges when it comes to his defense.
And lastly, Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grisham has struggled mightily with his bat for a long while in San Diego, holding the 5th-worst wOBA among all qualified batters since 2021.
Grisham’s departure could lend credence to San Diego’s rumored interest in KBO superstar outfielder Jung-Hoo Lee. While it certainly isn’t the same load the Padres gave up to net Soto in the first place — given their disastrous (DISASTROUS) 2023 season as well as their aforementioned depth and financial issues, the move may salvage their club’s chances for 2024 and beyond.
Then there’s the real fun: Juan Soto is going to be a Bronx Bomber. The headlines will surely focus on the potential nightmare-fuel for pitchers in facing a lineup with Soto and superstar Aaron Judge, and they should.
While the package could cost the Yankees some insurance for their rotation, Soto is simply that good where such a risk may be worth it.
For the last several years, the Yankees have seemingly made more headlines detailing disappointment and penny-pinching rather than notable victories. The team that repeatedly wouldn’t even give Bryce Harper a call is swinging for the fences with Soto, and it may not be the last move the club makes with rumored interest in superstar pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Combine that with the reality that Soto will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2024 season, and it looks to be a confirmation that the Yankees are in a true, 100% win-now mode.
While there’s certainly fear that Soto could walk away in free agency, the Yankees are still — and this can’t be emphasized enough — the Yankees; they have more resources than anyone to either prevent such a scenario from occurring or options to pivot and re-tool faster than nearly anyone.
After the trade, the Yankees will sport a starting outfield of Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, and just-recently-acquired Alex Verdugo — with Trent Grisham serving as a solid fourth outfielder with some untapped power that may play better in Yankee Stadium’s short porch.
The deal may end up being solid for both teams for a myriad of different reasons, and with plenty of other notable players still remaining, this could be just the tip of the iceberg.