The Yankees are preparing for an offseason that not only will shape how the 2024 roster looks but could also shape the outlook of the franchise for a very long time. Aaron Judge is the team’s top player, and he clearly has the pedigree of a hitter who can anchor any lineup, but the Yankees have failed at surrounding him with complimentary talent in the lineup in the past three seasons.
Juan Soto, the Yankees’ supposed top offseason target, is somebody who has plenty of mystery surrounding if he’ll even be dealt in the first place. If you ask ESPN’s Buster Olney however, he seems far less on the fence about the matter, as on The Michael Kay Show this past afternoon, he stated that Juan Soto will “100%” be traded before the season.
The Yankees Could Be Top Suitors For Juan Soto
The Yankees are in desperation mode for a superstar, as they not only show interest in left-handed slugger Juan Soto but also in top free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Jon Heyman reports interest in centerfielder Cody Bellinger as well, and while the Yankees do have concerns regarding his injury history and inconsistencies, they could be opportunistic buyers following a 20-20 season. Brian Cashman specifically mentioned two outfielders as his priority this offseason, also adding that he’d prefer them left-handed.
Left-handed hitting is going to be a priority on this team, as their lack of serious left-handed punch makes them easy to pitch to. They posted an 89 wRC+ against righties this past season, which was 24th in all of baseball, and teams knew they could exploit this weakness, as the Yankees had the fourth-most Plate Appearances (4805) against right-handed pitching.
Soto, who is set to enter his final year of arbitration, will likely cost a pretty penny not just on the trade market but financially as well. He’s projected to make north of $30 million in his final arbitration raise, and in his next contract looks to crack the $400 million mark pretty handily. Despite only turning 25 this past October, the Dominican-born superstar already has 28.4 fWAR and 160 HRs, putting him on pace to have a first-ballot Hall of Fame career.
Plate discipline, power, contact, he has it all, and Soto’s offensive skillset meshes perfectly with what the Yankees would want to pair with Aaron Judge. Since debuting back in 2018, Juan Soto (154) only trails Mike Trout (172), Aaron Judge (166), and Yordan Alvarez (166) in wRC+, and he’s the league leader in OBP (.421) despite such a young age. He’s one of just three hitters to walk more than he’s struck out in that time span, and he’s the only hitter in baseball with over 600 walks.
The San Diego Padres are in financial ruin, given the fact that they’re not in compliance with MLB’s debt-service ratio following a $50 million loan taken out in September. A pitching staff that shared the team ERA title (3.73) with the Brewers is set to be picked apart in free agency, as five of their seven most valuable pitchers, including the NL favorite to win the Cy Young Award, hit the open market.
The five of them combined for 627.1 of the Padres’ 1441 IP (43.5%) while posting a 2.88 ERA, and the Yankees have pitching depth to supply. Names like Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vasquez have shown the ability to pitch at a high-level as Major Leaguers in various roles, and the Yankees’ MiLB depth is great as well.
Chase Hampton and Drew Thorpe are both top-100 prospects, with MLB-ready arms like Clayton Beeter, Yoendrys Gomez, Will Warren, and Richard Fitts all in the mix as well that could give starts or long-relief outings. It’s a robust farm system, and the Yankees are expected to be aggressive according to Andy Martino of SNY if the opportunity presents itself.