Yankees finalize blockbuster deal for star Juan Soto in 5-for-2 swap

MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants, yankees, juan soto
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

In a deal that felt like it was a matter of when not if, the Yankees finally pulled the trigger on a deal that fans have long awaited. According to Jon Morosi, the Yankees and Padres are closing in on an agreement for outfielder Juan Soto, and they’ll add an All-Star left-handed hitter in his prime to a lineup that sorely needs a boost. Plenty of buzz regarding a potential deal between the two teams swirled across social media over the last two weeks. After a stalemate that caused many in the Yankee fanbase to hold their breath, it’s pandemonium in the Bronx as the team secures a future Hall of Famer.

It’ll be a five-for-two swap as the Yankees part ways with four pitchers and a catcher, but in return add depth in Trent Grisham and a superstar left-handed hitter in Juan Soto.

Juan Soto Adds Much-Needed Punch to Yankees’ Lineup

MLB: San Diego Padres at New York Yankees
May 26, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto (22) reacts after hitting a two-run home run against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are landing one of the best left-handed hitters of our generation as Juan Soto has led all of baseball in OBP since 2018 (.421) and is coming off of another stellar season. In 2023, Juan Soto put up a 155 wRC+ and collected 5.5 fWAR, smashing a career-high 35 HRs and walking more than he struck out. It’s another season that saw him as one of the top hitters in the sport, and the Yankees are going from having the worst left-field group in the American League to having the best left fielder in the entire sport.

Following a deal that came out of nowhere for Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, the team finds their second outfield bat, and this one is the big fish of the market. The Yankees have not had a qualified left-handed or switch-hitting player with a wRC+ at or above 150 since 2007 Jorge Posada, and Juan Soto not only had a wRC+ above 150 last season (155), he also had a career wRC+ at 154. He’s one of the best hitters in the sport, and on top of Alex Verdugo, he’s another hitter who can work walks and make contact, two things that New York struggled mightily with, especially against righties.

In 2023, the Yankees had an 89 wRC+ and struck out 24.2% of the time against right-handed pitchers, and that’s a mark they’ll improve on in 2024. Alex Verdugo has a 115 wRC+ versus right-handed pitching, and Juan Soto has a 167 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, so consider those boxes checked. The big question initially came from the potential defensive fit for Verdugo-Soto-Judge, and while the 2022 MVP will be the primary centerfielder, they also acquired an insurance option with a Gold Glove pedigree.

MLB: New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates
Sep 17, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) in the field against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Grisham’s addition to the deal makes the outfield picture a lot clearer, as it seems that he’ll be a defensive substitution and fourth outfielder for the Yankees. He’s in the top five in both DRS and OAA among centerfielders since joining the Padres in 2020, and his reverse splits should make him the starter for Verdugo when the team faces southpaws. His 110 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers alongside Verdugo’s 115 career wRC+ against right-handed pitchers should make for a strong platoon that yields more offense than what they saw from left field last season.

In this deal, the Yankees are parting ways with Michael King, who put up a 2.75 ERA across 104.2 innings, with a 2.23 ERA across 40.1 innings pitched as a starter. He showed plenty of promise down the stretch and the Yankees will have to replace his production in their pitching staff. The headlining prospect in this package is MiLB Pitcher of the Year Drew Thorpe, who had the most strikeouts in Minor League Baseball (182) and is a consensus top-100 prospect. He posted a 2.52 ERA in 23 starts and is considered the top pitcher in the Yankee organization next to Chase Hampton.

The Yankees would also give up two Major League arms in Jhony Brtio and Randy Vasquez, both of whom showed plenty of upside in 2023. Randy Vásquez put up a 2.87 ERA across 37.2 innings with the team in a swingman role and still has six years of control remaining. As for Jhony Brito, he posted a 4.28 ERA on the season and was one of the best relievers on the team down the stretch, with a 1.43 ERA and 24.3% strikeout rate in the bullpen.

Also part of this deal is catcher Kyle Higashioka, who is expected to help fill the Padres’ catching vacancies with Gary Sanchez entering free agency. One of the Yankees’ longest-tenured players in the organization, the 33-year-old catcher was drafted in 2008 and has been with New York ever since. It was expected that the Yankees would deal Higashioka due to the emergence of Austin Wells and the defensive abilities of Jose Trevino, and he’ll help a San Diego team still looking to compete in 2024.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees
Jul 23, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Ron Marinaccio (97) is greeted by New York Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka (66) after winning against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Parting ways with five players, especially for one year of a player, is a high price to pay, but for the Yankees, they get a hitter they’ve always needed. It’s the perfect move and one that’ll help secure the middle of the Yankee order with a duo in Judge and Soto that rivals some of the best in modern history. The Yankees needed to go all-in for their guy, and they’re doing exactly that by landing a future Hall of Famer in their prime.