While on The Michael Kay Show, the subject of Juan Soto came up once again. The Yankees are going to be surrounded by Juan Soto talks until his seemingly inevitable trade, as the team desperately needs a superstar hitter, and Juan Soto fits that bill. Following an 82-80 season where the team mustered one of baseball’s most stagnant offenses, it’s clear that they’re in need of a serious facelift offensively. In response to sluggish offenses, the Yankees have opted for “running it back” and acquiring good but not elite talent, much to the dismay of fans.
That could very much change this winter, as Jeff Passan said that he believes the Yankees “have a really good chance of going out and getting Soto,” which is a line any Yankee fan would be delighted to hear.
Yankees Continue to Be Linked to Juan Soto
Runs were hard to come by for the 2023 Yankees, who finished 25th in all of baseball in Runs Scored (673) and 27th in OBP (.304), and the team sorely needs offense, preferably from the left-handed side. The Yankees, who are known for the famous short porch in their home ballpark, hit the third-fewest home runs from the left-handed side (55) and had the second-fewest Plate Appearances in the sport taken by left-handed hitters (1650). Juan Soto is arguably the best left-handed hitter in the sport, and this past season was another incredible one at the plate.
There’s no short-changing the talent that is Juan Soto, who crushed 35 home runs with a 155 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR, playing all 162 games this past season. In his MLB career, he has played 94% of possible games, and in the past three seasons, he has played at least 150 games each time. His .421 OBP since debuting back in 2018 is the highest in baseball, and among all qualified hitters, he has the second-best OBP in the sport in the 21st Century, trailing the cerebral Barry Bonds.
Aaron Judge has been adamant about the team needs players who can play every day, and Juan Soto certainly fits that bill, as he’ll be entering his age-25 season and already has 160 home runs and 28.4 fWAR. This past week, Michael Kay also said on his radio show that the Padres really like right-handed pitchers Clarke Schmidt and Chase Hampton, with the latter being the top pitching prospect in the Yankees’ system and the 58th-best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America.
If there’s one advantage the Yankees hold, it’s their abundance of young pitching at the Major League and Minor League levels.
Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez both have five more seasons of control, combining for a 3.87 ERA (92 ERA-) in 128 innings pitched as a duo. Clarke Schmidt, as mentioned earlier, spent this past season as a full-time starter for the first time as a Major Leaguer and performed admirably with signs of growth as the season progressed. Drew Thorpe is another top-100 prospect in the Yankees’ farm system, and he won MiLB Pitcher of the Year this past season after leading the Minors in strikeouts (182) and strikeout-to-walk rate (26.9%).
Names like Will Warren, Richard Fitts, and Clayton Beeter could entice the Padres as well, as they’re all Major League caliber arms with upside. Warren, in particular, could prove to be highly valuable to San Diego, as he led all qualified starters in Triple-A in Stuff+ (124.5) and Pitching+ (107.4) while also boasting the second-lowest ERA (3.61) at the level. His high upside, along with his adjustments at Triple-A, could make him an arm that’s ready to crack into a starting rotation or bullpen on Opening Day.
Yoendrys Gomez and Ian Hamilton are other controllable arms that could help fill out San Diego’s bullpen, and in the Minor Leagues, they had two of the best relievers in the circuit. The MiLB leader in ERA and K-BB% (min. 60 IP) were both in the Yankees’ system, as Danny Watson sported a 1.58 ERA and Jack Neely flashed a 30.9% K-BB%, and both could serve Major League roles by the end of the season.
Pitching is the Yankees’ strength, and San Diego is set to lose NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, two reliable starters in Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo, a reliable swingman in Nick Martinez, and the best closer in baseball last season in Josh Hader all to free agency. The Yankees could use their surplus of pitching talent and financial might to absorb Soto’s $33 million projected arbitration hit, alongside potentially eating the contract of Matt Carpenter or even trading for Jake Cronenworth.
The Yankees need bats, and if they want to make a move that appeases the fans and puts them back in title contention, Juan Soto is the young core piece to acquire. Fans can move on from Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Corey Seager, but a failure to acquire Juan Soto following an 82-80 season would be disastrous for the team’s public image and reputation as a top spender on the market.