Can The Yanks Get Juan Soto?
by Cary Greene
October 11, 2023
Trading for Juan Soto is a topic that baseball writers and bloggers alike are already associating the Yankees with and many are suggesting the Yankees should be all in towards this objective. Today I thought it might be fun to learn whether or not the Yankees and Padres match up on a potential deal, but first there are a few questions we need to bullet point.
● Considering that the Yankees still owe $15.5 million to Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson, the team has a little over $29 million coming off the books this offseason. This doesn’t create the potential for a a series of Yankees spending blizzards to occur this winter, if anything, the Yankees will need to be very careful with their approach. Do Yankees fans really have any faith that Hal Steinbrenner will blow past the fourth CBT Threshold and lay out significant contracts to free agent acquisitions this offseason?
● Will Steinbrenner choose instead to be conservative and try to reset the Yankees and avoid being a CBT three-time offender?
● It’s been proven that on occasion, Steinbrenner will permit Brian Cashman to shop at the top of the free agent market if he really wants a player. That said, the Yankees have multitudes of problems that won’t be fixed by signing one or maybe two star players. This writer believes that the question of whether or not Steinbrenner will spend heavily this offseason is the most important offseason question that Yankees fans should be looking for him to answer or address.
● Are the Yankees in or out on Shohei Ohtani? It would seem Ohtani is the top left-handed bat on the market. Is he interested in playing in New York and if so, is there a path where the Yankees could outspend all suitors and land him, throwing CBT offending worries to the winter winds?
● Given that the Yankees need upgrades in the starting rotation, the outfield and the bullpen and with only $29 million coming off the books, which free agents will the Yankees prioritize and which trade targets will they be able to afford?
● Lastly, which Yankees prospects will be traded and how attractive will these prospects be to opposing GM’s?
One near lock in the long term planning department is that it seems like the Yankees will probably stick with Anthony Volpe at shortstop. Volpe was rated by StatCast as being 1 Out Above Average and the Yankees believe he will eventually adjust to MLB pitching.
Another lock to be part of the plans going forward is Jasson Dominguez, who is actually the lead character in today’s article. More on that later, but let’s first acknowledge that the switch-hitting centerfielder absolutely impressed fans and scouts alike during his brief September call up that lasted only 31 at-bats before he went down with a season ending arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. Dominguez will need 10 months to recover, which means he won’t be ready to resume baseball activities until September of next season and realistically, it’s highly unlikely that he could rejoin the Yankees until the 2025 season.
This means that the Yankees situation in the outfield has reached critical mass. They need help in both left field and right field. Other Yankees prospects like Everson Pereira, Oswald Peraza and Orlando Cabrera are collectively at a “stock-down” point in their Big League journeys. Pereira has the most trade value of the bunch, listed by Baseball Trade Values as $18.3 MTV. However, he didn’t look good since he was called up in late August, posting a .202 wOBA and a 23 wRC+ across a small sample size of 93 at-bats. The short of it is that Pereira didn’t impress scouts.
Which 2024 free agents will the Yankees target if they’re going to make an honest attempt to improve next season? The answer to that question is the fun part of every offseason as far as I’m concerned and this offseason is a Yankee blogger’s dream as there is no shortage of material to extrapolate on. Therefore, if you’re a reader of this article, I’d love your input on this topic in the comments section below!
Today I’ll dissect the elephant in the room, for it’s a beast that comes with a mega million dollar extension attached. Should - and more importantly can - the Yankees trade for Juan Soto?
Every GM in baseball is wary of the Padres AJ Preller, who has been desperately trying to turn the Padres into the best in the west for several seasons running - yet he’s ultimately failed thus far in his quest. When one eyes the Padres and what's held them back in recent seasons, their offense hasn’t been the culprit as it’s every bit World Series worthy.
As always, any team with a regular season OPS+ of around 104 is one that has postseason postseason potential and this notion is backed up by World Series data dating back to 1903, as MLB champions have averaged a 10-4.2 OPS+ throughout World Series history. This season, the Padres posted a team OPS+ of 106, which was tied for ninth in the league. If their offense heated up at the right time of the year, it could easily support a deep postseason run, but the problem is they’d have to make the postseason and that matter largely depends on team pitching instead of hitting.
If AJ Preller’s goal is to finally take the hill, he needs to improve the Padres pitching. This season, the Padres were pretty good on the mound, they posted a team ERA+ of 110, but that’s not in line with the 113.48 regular season ERA+ that past World Series champions have averaged. Preller is perhaps a quality starter and a few relievers short of becoming a major threat to win a World Series and folks, I have to believe a GM as savvy as Preller understands that he’s only a few moves from becoming a prohibitive postseason favorite.
Keep in mind, the Padres top starter is a free agent this season, 6’4” lefty Blake Snell and they have no less than 13 other free agents to make decisions on. With a little more than 77 million coming off the books, let’s recognize that Preller can afford any group of players he wishes to target as looks to form his 2024 roster and there is nothing whatsoever standing between the Padres offering Soto a record contract this offseason. It’s also highly possible that Preller will be interested in re-upping with Blake Snell
by the way, though news from the Padres neck of the woods indicate that Preller may be leaning,, or perhaps posturing that he’ll tilt, in other directions. Free agency is a complicated game for sure.
Getting back to Soto and because Soto is an elite offensive player, one fresh off a 5.5 f-WAR season in which he posted a .395 wOBA and a 155 wRC+, there is little reason to think that he wouldn’t be part of the Padres plans going forward and it’s also easily conceivable that Preller would be able to offer Soto a very large contract, potentially outbidding all suitors for his services.
It’s therefore highly unlikely that Preller will surrender Soto unless he is quite literally bowled over by a proposed trade, one in which the Padres receive significantly better blue chip talent in return. Replacing Soto’s production would be nearly impossible to do with a single player not named Ohtani. To top it all off and put a cherry on top of the prohibitively doubtful Soto to the Yankees innuendos that are being irresponsibly floated by baseball writers, the news out of San Diego by Bleacher Report's Timothy Rapp is that the Padres are aggressively looking to lock Soto up long term and efforts are currently underway towards this end.
With all of this information considered, I place the Yankees chances of acquiring Soto via a trade with the Padres at or near zero percent. However, to entertain the faithful, if by some miracle negotiations between the free spending Preller and and the soon to very rich Soto and his camp broke down, what would a realistic trade for Soto between the Padres and Yankees look like?
Believe it or not, the Padres and the Yankees line up almost perfectly in a trade for Soto. Preller would want to extract a maximum return for Soto and since Soto is a well below average outfielder who registered a minus 9 Outs Above Average this past season per StatCast, a possible contingency plan for Preller and the Padres might be to sign Ohtani and then plug in a replacement outfielder for defensive purposes, thereby providing coverage for the 2024 season.
Preller meanwhile, could focus on building for the future and the whole world knows that there’s only one Yankees prospect he’d even remotely consider trading the immensely valuable Soto for and that’s, you guessed, the Martian himself: Jasson Dominguez. Both Dominguez and Soto have very similar MTV’s, so a deal like this lines up for both sides though it unfortunately only happens in an alternate reality - a place called Never-Never World.