Ex-Yankees catcher blindsided by trade to Padres in Juan Soto deal

kyle higashioka, yankees

The New York Yankees were weak in multiple positions heading into the 2024 off-season, but one spot that represented a strength was at catcher. General manager Brian Cashman indicated several weeks ago that teams had been calling regarding the Yankees’ depth at the position, which made veteran Kyle Higashioka expendable.

The front office has high hopes for rookie Austin Wells and expects veteran Jose Trevino to step right back into his usual role as a defensive maestro in 2024. With that being said, Higashioka was always the odd man out, and the Yankees packaged him to bring Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the Bronx.

However, after a long and storied career with the Yankees, Higashioka saw the move as “shocking,” but he can hold his head high after fighting his way through the minor-league system to get a chance in 2017 finally.

He has played 314 MLB games, posting 10 homers for the last three consecutive seasons and representing a solid defensive catcher behind home plate. In 2023, the 33-year-old hit .236/.274/.413, collecting 34 RBIs and an 86 wRC+. His offensive numbers aren’t anything to write about, but they were some of the best on the team at the catcher position, given Trevino’s struggles and a wrist injury that limited his production significantly.

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The Yankees are Transitioning to Youth

The hope is that Wells offers a bat from the left side, helping to take advantage of the short right porch in Yankee Stadium and get on base after averaging above a 10% walk rate in the minors.

However, Higashioka leaves a legacy behind and memories that last a lifetime. He should be proud of his work ethic and pride after working through several difficult circumstances to finally reach his MLB dream. The New York Post spoke to Higashioka recently, stating the difficult nature of his early years and questioning if he would end up making it to the bigs.

“I went through a few tough years in the minors to start my career,” said Higashioka. “There were definitely plenty of points where I doubted whether or not I was ever going to make it to the big leagues. Just the fact that I got there and then experienced so many cool moments — personally and as a team.” 

Now, Hashioka should play a pivotal role for the Padres, where he can get regular playing time and utilize his experience to support their end of the deal.