Juan Soto is a Yankee! My initial thoughts
Yesterday, baseball’s worst-kept secret was finally unleashed, as the New York Yankees acquired Juan Soto, their top offseason target, from the San Diego Padres. One of the premier hitters on earth, Soto will be joined in the Bronx by Trent Grisham, a dynamic outfielder. In return, San Diego received a haul from the Yankees: promising starter Michael King, longtime catcher Kyle Higashioka, and three pitching prospects – Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez.
As a long-suffering Yankees fan, my mind is swimming in delirium, to a point where cogent thoughts feel elusive. Here, then, is an initial braindump of Soto-related arcana. Have at it:
- My first thought: Wow. Just wow. This is huge. It is arguably the biggest ‘Evil Empire’ type move the Yankees have made since trading for Alex Rodriguez 20 years ago. Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton may contest that, but Soto outshines even those big fish. This is the Yankees landing one of the very best players in the world. This is the Yankees acting like the Yankees. This is monumental. George Steinbrenner would approve.
- Soto is a generational talent. Long compared to Ted Williams, the outfielder is on a Hall of Fame track – and he will be the second-youngest projected regular on the 2024 Yankees. Keen to understand just how good Soto is, and whether all the hype is valid? Just pull up his Baseball-Reference page and marvel at the mastery. Since debuting in 2018, Soto ranks first in OBP; first in walk percentage; fourth in wRC+; and fifth in offensive WAR, throughout baseball. Quite simply, he lies within the very top echelon of offensive producers, and the Yankees barged their way through to get him. Bravo.
- Aside from the eye-popping statistics and intangible aura, Soto is also a winner – something that is often overlooked. The guy won a World Series ring with Washington when he was 21. He has played on the biggest stage and will not be fazed by demands to lead the Yankees there. Incidentally, Soto joins Anthony Rizzo as the only current Yankees with World Series rings. That helps.
- The Yankees just had to make this move, for so many reasons. To add a potent bat to their stagnant lineup, primarily, but also to re-engage a frustrated fanbase. For years, I have written about the Yankees’ existential crisis; about their reticence to repeat what once made them great. Well, this is an old school Yankees move. This restores some of the waning faith in aloof management. Finally, they heard our grumbles. Last year sucked, and they are determined to make amends. Fair play, and thank you. Keep going.
- Yes, Soto has just one year left on his contract, and the Yankees gave up plenty to ensure he spends that year in pinstripes, but some of the heavy-grade copium spewed by salty fans of rival teams is comically strained. We are talking about Juan Soto here. Juan Soto. He is arguably the greatest hitter on the planet. Having him for any length of time is a gift, and anybody who says otherwise is deluded.
- Besides, the Yankees will probably make a serious run at extending Soto next winter, if not before. Whether they can accommodate another mammoth contract – perhaps approaching $600 million – is another debate entirely, but do not rule it out. Having a year to pitch Soto on a shared future is a distinct advantage over every other team.
- Again, Soto’s mix of youth and ability is a dramatic game-changer. He is only 25. If the Yankees can keep him around for the long term, Soto extends their window of contention, which was beginning to narrow as Cole and Aaron Judge age. This is how you ensure sustainable success if you are the New York Yankees – by stacking one wave of uber-talented players on top of another. That is the best way to maximise your enviable resources.
- To that point, Cashman now turns his attention to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Japanese phenom recently posted by the Orix Buffaloes of NPB. As I explored in this feature, the Yankees are fascinated by Yamamoto, who has ace potential. He, too, is only 25. Adding him to the mix would further extend – and deepen – the Yankees’ championship window.
- The Yankees will reportedly meet with Yamamoto on Monday. They have already lined up Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka to assist with the recruitment drive, and industry whispers put the Yankees in pole position. Theoretically, adding Yamamoto to Soto would make this one of the best offseason hauls of Cashman’s career – just when he needed it most. Angry Cashman is the best Cashman, it seems.
- Returning to Soto, some have expressed concerns about the Yankees’ outfield defence, and I understand those worries. Soto is a mediocre defender who will be stashed in right field, pushing Judge to centre – perhaps an unwise solution as the captain returns from a complex toe injury. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Stanton continues to clog the DH spot, adding a further layer of doubt. However, Grisham and Alex Verdugo give the Yankees plenty of outfield options, and it will fall on manager Aaron Boone to get the balance right. Yes, the Yankees may sacrifice some defensive assurance, but when the offence was so anaemic last year, they kinda had Do not overthink this.
- The dynamic between Soto and Judge will make the Yankees must-watch in 2024. Since 2018, Judge and Soto are second and fourth, respectively, in wRC+ across MLB. When did the Yankees last have such an otherworldly tandem at the heart of their lineup? A-Rod and Robinson Canó in 2009, perhaps? Honestly, you may have to go all the way back to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig – and that is not hyperbole. That is the level of brilliance we are discussing here.
- Speaking of Canó, he is probably the Yankees’ greatest ever Dominican player – a title that Soto will surely covet. New York has a large Dominican population, of course, with estimates as high as 3.5% of the metropolitan population. Their zeal for baseball is typically unmatched, and Yankee Stadium will be a madhouse this season with Soto in a headline role. The atmosphere will be electric, and I live for that.
- Finally, a quick personal note. Patrycja and I are getting married in March 2024, and we are visiting New York for our honeymoon. We already have tickets for six Yankees games while we are there, and they will be among the first handful Juan Soto ever plays in pinstripes. That is really cool, and also a little absurd. We do not have tickets for Opening Day yet – the Soto debut in pinstripes – but we are working on it. A lot of people are now, apparently. This addition made the Yankees a destination again, and that is delightful to see.