Ex-Yankees pitcher believes Padres ‘won’ the Juan Soto trade

mlb: toronto blue jays at new york yankees, michael king
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In a significant off-season move, both the New York Yankees and the San Diego Padres could declare victory in the deal that brought Juan Soto to the Bronx. The Yankees traded several pitchers for Soto, one of the most formidable offensive talents in recent baseball history.

Details of the Trade

The trade package to the Padres included Drew Thorpe, Randy Vasquez, Jhony Brito, and Michael King. King, in particular, was preparing to transition to a starting role in the upcoming season after making several starts at the end of 2023.

While the Yankees were optimistic about King’s potential, they chose to trade this substantial pitching talent for Soto, a player with a Hall-of-Fame-caliber bat. Soto is slated to hit free agency in 2025, having secured $31 million this off-season to avoid arbitration.

At only 25 years old, Soto had an impressive season, playing all 162 games and boasting a .275/.410/.519 batting line. He hit a career-high 35 home runs, drove in 109 RBIs, and stole 12 bases. Notably, Soto is recognized for his exceptional plate discipline, often recording more walks than strikeouts. Last season, he had an 18.6% walk rate compared to an 18.2% strikeout rate, although he experienced a slight increase in strikeouts.

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Impact of the Trade on Both the Yankees and Padres

Michael King, now preparing for his first season-opening start with the Padres, expressed his belief that the Padres emerged as winners in this trade. He praised Padres General Manager A.J. Preller and was surprised by the Yankees’ willingness to part with multiple players for Soto. King, who had a 2.75 ERA over 104.2 innings last year, was a valuable asset for the Yankees, but they opted to leverage Clarke Schmidt in negotiations, which the Padres declined.

“I continue to praise [Padres general manager] A.J. Preller and be confident in saying I feel like the Padres won the trade,’’ King said by phone from San Diego on Monday. “I feel like the talent we’ve gotten, I was shocked to see the Yankees part with that many people. Obviously, it’s Juan Soto, so you have to give up a big package, but I was pumped to see who was coming with me to San Diego. I know they’re gonna contribute this year and for years to come.”

Via the New York Post

The Padres gained controllable pitching talent, a significant advantage considering they were unlikely to re-sign Soto. On the other hand, the Yankees, who struggled offensively with runners in scoring position in 2023, have significantly bolstered their lineup with Soto. He excels in these situations, as evident by his .299/.439/.576 batting average with RISP, including nine home runs and 71 RBIs.

Pairing Soto with Aaron Judge could dramatically improve the Yankees’ offense, potentially transforming them from one of the weakest to one of the strongest offensive teams.

Assessing the Long-Term Impact

While it’s premature to judge who won the trade definitively, both teams have addressed key needs. The Yankees have enhanced their offense, while the Padres have strengthened their pitching. The 2024 season will be crucial in assessing the long-term benefits of this trade for both teams.