It has happened.
As soon as the Padres made it clear to the baseball world that they would be shedding payroll in 2024, folks started to link Juan Soto to the Yankees. Even with only one year remaining until the 25-year-old superstar hits free agency, the match was obvious. Soto’s a lefty slugger, an outfielder, an absolute on-base machine, and already a standout postseason performer. The Yankees deeply disappointed on offense in 2023 and were in dire need of someone just like him — and there really is only one Soto. They threw a curveball by acquiring Alex Verdugo from the Red Sox last night, but insiders were quick to note that this would not affect the negotiations.
Sure enough, the trade talks rolled along this morning and early afternoon. The key names going to San Diego were all but finalized, and it was just a matter of working out the other details. The deal is done! Here’s Jon Morosi with the first report and Joel Sherman with the confirmation, hours later after medicals had been fully reviewed.
Juan Soto trade agreement is being finalized now, source confirms.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 6, 2023
The deal, as @JackCurryYES and @Joelsherman1 reported, sends Soto and Trent Grisham to New York for Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez, and Kyle Higashioka. @MLB @MLBNetwork
The trade between the Yankees and Padres sending Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to New York is now completed. The teams to make it official some time tonight.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 7, 2023
As rumored earlier in the afternoon, the Yankees are indeed picking up another outfielder in Trent Grisham, who was due a raise to about $4.9M in arbitration. Although Grisham has slumped with the bat the past couple years, the two-time Gold Glove winner immediately becomes the best defensive center fielder on the roster, and Joel Sherman reports that he’ll likely be the primary fourth outfielder. The Yankees tend to always test their depth, so Grisham’s not a bad guy at all to have in the wings, particularly for late-game glovework.
Back to the star of the show in this trade though, Josh already outlined in his trade target article why Juan Soto is such a no-brainer move for the Yankees, even at that pitching cost. The short version is that he’s one of the best pure hitters in baseball. Soto has accomplished so much already, all before turning 25 — the same age as Aaron Judge during his Rookie of the Year breakout in 2017. In six seasons with Washington and San Diego, Soto has hit .284/.421/.524 with 148 doubles, 160 homers, a 154 wRC+, and 28.4 fWAR. He’s a three-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, a Home Run Derby and batting title winner, plus a 2019 World Series champion with the Nationals.
That is all unreal for his age, and it’s not as though Soto slowed down in 2023. He might have taken a minute to adjust to the Padres after being acquired from DC at the previous season’s deadline (during which he still posted an excellent 131 wRC+), but in 2023, he hit a career-high 35 bombs with a .275/.410/.519 triple slash, a 155 wRC+, and 5.5 fWAR. Soto will instantly team up with Judge to give the Yankees a devastating one-two punch for opposing pitchers to battle.
I’m not going to lie about the players who were sent to San Diego. I like them all and think they could have each easily been a part of the next great Yankees team. Michael King has a sketchy elbow history but after moving from a bullpen weapon to the rotation down the stretch in 2023, he demonstrated why he deserved a shot with some nasty results. Drew Thorpe was a Top 100 prospect in MLB for a reason, and he deservingly won MiLB Pitching Prospect of the Year with his ascent from 2022 draft pick to serious talent. Kyle Higashioka is as steady as they come for backup catchers, and each of Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez flashed the potential to be MLB bullpen contributors.
Was this a lot to give up for the possibility of only year of Soto, since he has little reason to extend with a payday on the horizon that would only make Shohei Ohtani scoff? Of course, but Judge and ace Gerrit Cole are both in their early-to-mid thirties now and not getting any younger. The Yankees simply have to take advantage of their primes and capitalize with a deep playoff run in 2024. The organization has high standards for a reason, and over half the league has at least made the World Series since the Yankees last won a pennant in 2009.
It’s now or never, and while I hope that those pitchers (and Higgy) have bright futures, New York needed legitimate help in the now. The peak George Steinbrenner years in the ‘80s offered an example of the cost of surrendering too many prospects for not enough in return, but the past decade of Hal Steinbrenner years have presented that other side of the coin. Too many guys like Clint Frazier, Deivi García, Miguel Andújar, Eduardo Núñez, and more have been held onto at the cost of improving the MLB roster when the iron was hot. Their peak talent never materialized, and they were ultimately dropped for nothing. It’s a shame, but it happens far too often with prospects.
It’s not every year that you get a chance to add a nonpareil talent like Soto. It’s a Hail Mary move for 2024, and one the Yankees had to make. Let the games begin.
The New York Yankees today announced that they have acquired three-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner OF Juan Soto and two-time Gold Glove winner OF Trent Grisham from the San Diego Padres in exchange for RHP Michael King, C Kyle Higashioka, RHP Jhony Brito,…— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 7, 2023