As they do every off-season, the New York Yankees have begun speaking to other clubs about potential blockbuster trades. General manager Brian Cashman always ensures no stone is left unturned, and the hot commodity this off-season is San Diego Padres superstar and lefty slugger Juan Soto.
Soto, coming off another dominant season and having just turned 25 on Wednesday, is indeed a player to pique the Yankees’ interest. He fits Yankee Stadium like a glove, thanks to his power-hitting prowess. Furthermore, his durability is proven, having played at least 150 games in each of the past four full seasons, with the Covid-abbreviated season being the exception.
This past year, Soto played all 162 games, hitting .275 with a .410 OBP and .519 slugging percentage. His season highlights included 35 homers, 109 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, and a 155 wRC+. He also posted an 18.6% walk rate and an 18.2% strikeout rate, numbers that showcase his elite plate discipline.
According to Andy Martino of SNY, the Yankees have initiated preliminary conversations with the Padres about Soto, but after that initial discussion, things have quieted down. The Yankees are biding their time, waiting for the 2023 season to conclude and for free agency to commence to fully gauge the market dynamics. However, the Padres, always open to discussions, know that the right offer could lead them to part ways with one of the game’s elite hitters.
Martino drew a parallel with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers’ significant move of trading Mookie Betts one year before he hit free agency. The trade, which included Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong, is reminiscent of the situation the Bombers face. Given Soto’s impending significant salary hit in his final arbitration year and the likelihood of him commanding a monster contract, the Yankees might not have to give away their top prospects. They would, however, need to prepare for a substantial financial commitment to the superstar outfielder.
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The Yankees’ Strategic Move: Pursuing Juan Soto
For the Yankees, seeking a long-term cornerstone outfielder with a dominant bat, setting their sights on Soto makes perfect sense. While they could consider free agency options like Cody Bellinger, his inconsistency and potential for regression following a standout season could deter them.
Should the Yankees believe they can engineer a swift turnaround with a mix of high-priced talent and up-and-coming prospects, Soto fits the bill. Much depends on the financial leeway at Cashman’s disposal. Pursuing another high-profile target like Yoshinobu Yamamoto to bolster their pitching staff means resources will be stretched thin, especially considering Soto’s expected arbitration contract. However, offloading a hefty contract in a potential deal with San Diego could provide the necessary financial flexibility.
The Yankees often find themselves in contention for top players through trades and traditional free agency. Still, acquiring a talent like Soto, a mere 25 years old and already consistently high-performing, would be a statement move. It would be a folly for the Yankees not to attempt a decisive play for his services and secure his commitment with a long-term contract.