The New York Yankees have repeatedly been linked to superstar slugger Juan Soto this off-season, yet conversations with his current team have remained at the preliminary stage. Sean Casey, a former hitting coach, expressed his opinion that Soto would be a desirable addition to the Yankees’ predominantly right-handed batting order, providing much-needed left-handed power.
The Yankees’ Pursuit of Youth and Durability
General Manager Brian Cashman is advised to prioritize two key traits this off-season: youth and durability. Soto is the epitome of both. At just 25 years old, he has already demonstrated his resilience by playing 162 consecutive games.
During this stretch, he maintained an impressive .275 batting average with a .410 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .519 slugging percentage. His contributions also include 35 home runs, 109 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases, alongside an 18.2% strikeout rate and an 18.6% walk rate, cumulating in a 155 wRC+. This performance was 55% better than the average MLB player offensively last season, and he has consistently maintained a wRC+ of at least 143 since 2019.
Incorporating Soto into the Yankees’ lineup would unquestionably amplify their odds of clinching the World Series title.
San Diego Padres’ Financial Dilemma
The Yankees’ chances of acquiring Soto are further bolstered by the San Diego Padres’ need to reduce their payroll this off-season. With Soto’s post-arbitration estimated at around $27 million for 2024—his last year before free agency—the Padres are under financial scrutiny.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, they are actively seeking to eliminate $50 million from their expenses. Consequently, it appears inevitable that they will part with Soto and possibly other players to alleviate their fiscal burden.
Strategic Financial Maneuvering
The Padres may also consider trading players like Jake Cronenworth in a package deal involving Soto. Cronenworth, who signed a seven-year, $80 million contract, may be of interest to the Yankees, who might absorb his salary in favor of retaining their prime prospects. Despite a challenging season with a .229 batting average and .312 OBP, Cronenworth’s $7.3 million salary for 2024 is manageable for the Yankees. They could utilize him in a utility role or as an alternative to Anthony Rizzo at first base or potentially position him at third base to fill a current vacancy.
With the Padres having reportedly borrowed $50 million in September to manage cash flow problems, retaining an expensive asset like Soto is out of the question. The Yankees, on the other hand, could be an ideal destination for Soto, especially if they are open to assuming some financial responsibility for other players in the process.