Entering this trade deadline, the Yankees are in a weird spot. In the midst of a transition of eras, the Yankees are seeing the likes of Anthony Volpe break into the Majors and form the new core as the Baby Bomber Era draws to a close. Leaving the Yankees without a pennant or World Series, there was one distinct thing that felt absent in their playoff runs from 2017-2022, and that was a legitimate superstar right next to Aaron Judge in the lineup.
The deadline has given the Yankees a myriad of fits, as they’ve failed to net the real difference-maker that puts them over the edge. This 2023 squad doesn’t feel much better than previous years, but there’s one key thing it has that the others lacked; a clear path to the World Series. In 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2022, the Astros felt the American League’s clearcut best team. In 2018 and 2020, the Red Sox and Rays ravaged the AL East and the AL as a whole en route to beating the Yankees and capturing pennants.
This year? While the Rays got off to a stellar start, injuries have severely slowed them down. The Rangers lead the AL West, as the Astros have been good but not dominant. The AL East has tough internal competition, but no one feels “unbeatable”. With the talent on the roster, acquiring Juan Soto could be the final piece to the Yankee puzzle, and they have what it takes to pull said deal off.
One of the Deepest Farms in Baseball
The Yankees have excelled in terms of assembling quality talent at the MiLB level, especially on the pitching front. Baseball America selected six Yankees to place on their top-100 list, one of the highest marks for any organization in the sport. While they lack a true generational prospect, they make up for it by having plenty of strong prospects that teams would be interested in. It spans from the highest levels of the organization to its lowest, and that depth allows them to consistently churn out highly-coveted young talent.
While the Yankees themselves haven’t seen this recent crop of prospects blossom, they were able to execute trades for Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo, Frankie Montas, Scott Effross, and Andrew Benintendi in the span of two seasons while replenishing traded prospects quickly. Last year, the narrative was that the Yankees traded all of their top pitching prospects, and now they boast a formidable crop of arms between the various levels of professional ball.
Chase Hampton, Drew Thorpe, Will Warren, Richard Fitts, and Clayton Beeter are all excellent pitching prospects who project to have viability at the Major League level. This is also slighting names like Juan Carela, who has a 2.99 ERA and 22.2% K-BB% in High-A in his age-21 season, and Brock Selvidge, who is only 20 years old and yet has a 2.98 FIP in A-Ball. Brendan Beck and Yoendrys Gomez are returning from injuries, and Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez have shown MLB viability already.
There’s pitching talent up and down the organization, and controllable young pitching will always have value on the trade market. That being said, pitching prospects are also extremely volatile and come with heightened injury risk compared to position players, who oftentimes come up as immediate impact talents that you can pencil into the lineup every day.
Even with Anthony Volpe’s struggles, he’s given the Yankees plus defense at a premier defensive position, something they haven’t had in years. The Padres are likely not in need of Volpe or Peraza, as Bogaerts/Kim/Machado/Cronenworth lockdown the 2B/SS/3B positions, but they’d still want premier talent. Jasson Dominguez would be a foregone conclusion to be traded in a deal like this one, and he’s probably their most highly-touted prospect.
The Yankees have MLB-ready guys as well, headlined by the likes of Everson Pereira, who is a darkhorse top-100 guy on some lists and in the top-100 on Baseball America. He’s absolutely scorched Minor League Baseball this season, posting a 153 wRC+ and slashing .313/.382/.566 in 50 games in the 2023 season. Since 2021, he’s posted a 143 wRC+ with 45 HRs in 201 games, and while he’s dealt with injuries, he could slot into the Padres’ outfield plays in late 2023 or early 2024.
Left-handed bats Austin Wells and Trey Sweeney have been solid at Double-A with the Somerset Patriots, with both being former first-round picks who have netted strong results in the Minor Leagues. Both could entice a Padres team looking to bolster their farm and reload to build around their still-strong roster on paper. Roderick Arias is an exciting 18-year-old shortstop who’s torn up the Florida Complex League for a wRC+ nearing 150 and an OPS of .958 on the season.
With 23 walks to 23 strikeouts in 23 games, Arias also has six longballs to boot and has become one of the Yankees’ most exciting young prospects. Keiner Delgado is his FCL teammate, and he’s maintained a high walk rate with a low strikeout rate and improving exit velocity numbers as well. John Cruz is just 17 years old in the FCL and tied for the youngest qualified player in the league. He’s posted an OPS of .848 with strong power numbers and solid plate discipline as well.
Delgado and Arias are both switch-hitters, while Cruz is a lefty, and the Padres could be enticed to take one of these three as a lottery ticket for a potential superstar. Enmanuel Tejeda and Brandon Mayea also stand out as prospects in the lower levels which could entice the Padres, and once you step back at the sheer talent they have sprinkled across the system, you realize the framework for a Juan Soto trade exists.
What Would a Realistic Offer for Juan Soto Look Like?
When building the framework of this deal, starting strong with Jasson Dominguez is a no-brainer, but it gets muddy from there. Everson Pereira is a likely pairing mate with Dominguez, as while Oswald Peraza is the better prospect to many, the value he has to the Padres seems a bit limited. Will Warren is arguably the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, and his 2024 ETA makes him an extremely enticing name for the San Diego Padres.
Could Clarke Schmidt find himself headed out West? With the likely departure of Blake Snell at the deadline in the scenario where the Padres sell, they’ll have an opening in the rotation, and Schmidt’s solid season and 108 Stuff+ could create some buzz about his upside. The Padres are not looking to punt away 2024, and Schmidt/Warren as rotation pieces or bullpen pieces would certainly help that staff.
Dominguez-Pereira-Warren-Schmidt presents a strong starting point, but the Padres would likely need more to find themselves willing to entertain a deal for a player who will likely waltz into the Hall of Fame. The Nationals got three top-100 guys (Hassell/Abrams/Wood), a former top-100 arm in MacKenzie Gore, and Jarlin Susana, who has an explosive arm. Granted, Soto had an extra year of control and came alongside Josh Bell, but this offer lacks the finishing touches it needs to be complete.
The Yankees could throw in Ron Marinaccio, who has plenty of club control and has been effectively phased out of high-leverage due to poor command, and other names in the bullpen performing at a high level, as the Padres need bullpen support, and he could provide that. In all, the Yankees would offer Dominguez-Pereira-Warren-Schmidt-Marinaccio to the Padres, and while I don’t know if that gets a deal done, I do know it at least sparks an interesting conversation.
With all of that context, information, and speculation out of the way, it all begs one big question; would this even be worth it? The Yankees sit a game out of the postseason, is Juan Soto, who couldn’t turn the Padres season around this year, going to save the Yankees? Well, the answer to that question is quite simple:
The Yankees Should Not Hesitate At a Steep Price
I believe that Everson Pereira will make for a strong everyday outfielder, the same goes for Jasson Dominguez. Clarke Schmidt and Will Warren will make it either as starters or as extremely nasty relievers, and Ron Marinaccio has given the Yankees clutch outings in the past. None of them, and I mean none, will have the median outcome of providing value that Juan Soto can provide for the New York Yankees.
Randy Vasquez is currently not a better pitcher than Clarke Schmidt, but can he and Jhony Brito make strong enough spot starts to make up for his absence? Domingo German is the projected five starter when Cortes returns, creating an ugly mess for the roster where Schmidt would likely have to get optioned in less than a month. Acquiring Soto doesn’t prevent you from adding a starter, and the Yankees would likely want to do so anyways since Severino seems unlikely to turn his season around.
Luis Severino’s struggles could be mitigated with a demotion to the bullpen, where he could help supplement the hypothetical loss of Ron Marinaccio, who would also have his innings further jeopardized by the potential return of Jonathan Loaisiga and the impeccable performances we’ve seen from the likes of Tommy Kahnle in the middle of that bullpen.
Will Warren would be a tough loss for the organization considering his high-octane stuff, but the likes of Chase Hampton, Richard Fitts, and Drew Thorpe could replace him at some point in the farm system. In some regards, Hampton has already surpassed Warren, as he’s just 21 years old and has struck out 36.8% of batters faced between High-A and Double-A.
The Yankees desperately need a bat, and Juan Soto would not only provide that, but he’d also give the Yankees a young superstar to build around for the next decade. Soto is in his age 24 season; he’s the same age as Randy Vasquez and Oswaldo Cabrera and is younger than Jhony Brito and Clarke Schmidt. There’s zero reason to view this trade as anything other than a must-have for the Yankees, who need a superstar to add to this team and give them a chance at a title in 2023 and beyond.
Top five in qualified wRC+, top ten in fWAR, this is one of the very best players in all of baseball; and he’s left-handed with a playoff pedigree. This is the exact type of player the Yankees have longed for, and while the Padres would have to make him available in order to make this work, it’s clear that the Yankees want to make a big splash with the talks involving Shohei Ohtani and now Juan Soto. Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole aren’t getting any younger, and patience is running thin across the board.
In a sense, the Yankees need to act like the Yankees of old; something I seldom say, considering that it typically involves gross overspending and a lack of financial mobility, but there is rarely anyone you develop that can mirror Soto’s talent. If the Yankees want someone who can provide contact, power, and ridiculous on-base skills for the next dozen years, the Padres’ demise should be the Yankees’ moment to shine.