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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/8/23

Yankees among favorites to land Yamamoto; Steinbrenner reveals primary impetus for Soto trade; Cashman reflects on Soto trade; Grading both sides of Soto trade; Maybin sounds off on facial hair policy; Untold Munson story from 1977 ALCS brawl

World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images | Mark Feinsand: Now that the Yankees pulled off their blockbuster trade for Juan Soto, their attention turns squarely to their pursuit of Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The rotation depth took a major hit with Michael King and spot starters Randy Vásquez and Jhony Brito leaving in the Soto deal, plus Luis Severino, Domingo Germán, and Frankie Montas hitting free agency. So it stands to reason that the team is connected to the top name on the starting pitching market.

The reigning Pacific League MVP in each of the last three seasons was posted by his team and has until early January to sign with an MLB team. Feinsand relays a quote from an unnamed source that the sweepstakes to secure Yamamoto’s signature “is going to come down to the Mets and Yankees.”

New York Post | Jon Heyman: Hal Steinbrenner certainly deserves praise for his team’s direction this winter with Brian Cashman crediting the Yankees’ principal owner as the ‘driving force’ behind getting the deal done. Speaking with the Post following the blockbuster, Steinbrenner declared that the primary motivation behind acquiring Soto was to “increase their chances of winning a championship.” The Yankees’ owner has come under fire in recent seasons for failing to commit to winning in any given season, so this offseason could represent a significant (and welcome) deviation from that course. | Pete Caldera: Cashman spoke to reporters following the team’s trade for Soto and reflected on the process to get the deal over the finish line as well as the team’s priorities for the rest of the offseason. The Yankees’ GM identified Yamamoto as the team’s top target, followed by possibly another starter and reliever. He praised owner Hal Steinbrenner’s “willingness to go all in” and also acknowledged the possibility that Soto could be a “short-term situation,” providing the justification that the Yankees are “focused on the here and now...with the full intentions of taking a shot at a title.”

CBS Sports | R.J. Anderson: Many publications have been offering up report cards for the Soto trade, with Anderson assigning the Yankees an A and the Padres a C. For the Yankees, they filled their most pressing need with the almost perfect player in Soto while also raising the defensive ceiling of their outfield depth with the inclusion of Trent Grisham in the deal. As for the Padres, the trade only makes sense if you accept the initial premise that financial constraints made keeping him in San Diego untenable. Yes, they addressed their need for pitching by getting four arms back, but all come with question marks of varying size attached.

Yahoo! Sports | Jack Baer: The Yankees’ outdated facial hair policy is well-trodden ground, and Cameron Maybin is the latest to sound off. He claims that New York would be a far more attractive destination to free agents if they abolished the rule, going as far as to imply that quality players have eschewed the Yankees because of the policy. Maybin is not the first major leaguer to slam the policy in recent years, with David Price and Andrew McCutchen also critical of the mandate.

New York Post | Matt Ehalt: If you needed another reason to be impressed by Thurman Munson’s grace and humanity, George Brett recounts an incredible story from one of the most memorable moments of the two teams’ heated rivalry during the ‘70s and ‘80s. During the infamous brawl in Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS sparked by Brett’s hard slide into Graig Nettles at third, Munson actually protected Brett from his bloodthirsty teammates.

“Thurman Munson comes up and he’s one of the first guys in the pile but I’ll never forget this. He’s laying on top of me, shielding me, he said, ‘George, it’s Thurman. I got you covered. Nobody is going to take any potshots at you.’ How cool was that?”