Yankees need to side-step $500 million free agent

Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) reacts after fouling a ball off his foot during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field

The New York Yankees, in their pursuit of a superstar lefty slugger, are weighing the options of acquiring Juan Soto versus Shohei Ohtani. While Soto could cost around $400 million to acquire and extend, his consistent performance, including playing over 150 games for three consecutive years, makes him a compelling choice. Last season, Soto played all 162 games, showcasing his durability and game-changing abilities.

On the other hand, Shohei Ohtani, one of the league’s most talented players, presents a different scenario. Although Ohtani is an elite player, his potential contract of around $500 million and the fact that he will miss the entire 2024 season as a pitcher position him differently. For the Yankees, this raises concerns, especially given their current roster structure and financial commitments.

The Case Against Ohtani

While there’s no denying Ohtani’s extraordinary talent and potential to be one of the best players in baseball history, the Yankees face several practical challenges in pursuing him. Ohtani’s anticipated absence in the 2024 season as a pitcher, due to Tommy John surgery, limits him to a designated hitter role. This is problematic for the Yankees, who already have Giancarlo Stanton with a significant luxury tax salary ($22 million). Trading Stanton, which would require him to waive his no-trade clause, adds another layer of complexity.

Ohtani’s last season statistics were impressive, with a .304 batting average, .412 OBP, .654 slugging rate, and significant home run and RBI numbers. Pairing him with Aaron Judge could create a formidable lineup, but the same impact might be achievable with Soto, who, despite his defensive shortcomings, compensates with his batting prowess.

mlb: san diego padres at new york yankees, juan soto, mets

Financial and Geographical Considerations

The financial aspect is another critical factor. Ohtani’s expected salary of around $50 million per season may not align with the Yankees’ financial strategy, particularly considering owner Hal Steinbrenner’s hesitancy to exceed the final luxury tax threshold. Additionally, reports suggest Ohtani’s preference to stay away from the East Coast, with the Los Angeles Dodgers emerging as a likely destination.

The Strategic Fit of Soto With the Yankees

In contrast, Juan Soto presents a more strategic fit for the Yankees. Not only does his lefty bat suit Yankee Stadium’s short right porch, but acquiring Soto and other players with the budget allocated for Ohtani could address multiple team needs. The Yankees are rumored to be highly interested in Soto if he becomes available via trade, considering his potential impact and the need to reinforce various positions on the team.

While both Soto and Ohtani offer immense talent, the Yankees must consider financial implications, team composition, and strategic fit in their pursuit of bolstering the roster for the upcoming season.

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