Could the Yankees Pull off a Trade for Juan Soto?
Mid-October Thoughts by Cary Greene
October 19, 2023
NOTE - This is my longer form answer to this week's Tuesday Discussion question.
This week’s question is, in my opinion, for those who dare to dream and since everyone should pursue their dreams, why can’t we Yankees fans dream. Do I think a trade for Soto is even a remote possibility? No, by hey, let’s dream.
In my article last week I touched on whether or not trading for Juan Soto was a realistic possibility for the Yankees. I concluded that the Padres AJ Preller is highly likely to sign Soto, who is fresh off an impressive 5.5 f-WAR season in which he posted a .395 wOBA and a 155 wRC+. I said that there is little reason to think that Soto 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, due to the Padres having a little more than $77 million coming off the books this offseason.
Recognizing that Preller can afford any group of players he wishes to target as he looks to form his 2024 roster, there is only one scenario where I would conclude that Preller might change his plans and to be clear - I don’t believe any Yankees trade proposal short of sending Judge to the Padres, would be the catalyst that would cause Preller to trade Soto. Nor would I want the Yankees to trade Judge for Soto straight up, due to the financial implications of any such deal. Trading for Soto would make it preclusive that Hal Steinbrenner would authorize more spending to occur and I believe the Yankees need quite a bit more help in other areas.
A Yankees proposal offering Judge for Soto would of course never happen, so what then would cause Preller to want to trade one of the game’s best players? I’ll state the answer in one word: VALUE! Preller might want to maximize the bang he gets for the free agent buck and there is one player on the market this winter who might just turn out to be an even better bet than Soto. We all know who that player is, right?
Below are three players. Player A would have been worth $44.3 million if he were a free agent this past season. He’s a lousy fielder, a poor base runner and he doesn’t play a premium position –but– he has a seriously valuable bat and he happens to be a left-handed slugger. Player B is a good base runner and a very valuable defensive player (when you consider that he can pitch) and he’s even a better offensive player, though he’s an injury risk moving forward. Player C is a bat-first player and also very injury prone but he also happens to be under a long term contract and his team is attempting to build around him.
Player A is of course Soto, Player B is Shohei Ohtani and Player C is Aaron Judge. Though it would be a significant roll of the dice, Ohtani appears to be a significantly more valuable player overall than Soto. Therefore, if Preller chooses to spend big, he might be better off going with Ohtani while also extracting maximum value for Soto and perhaps, in a scenario such as this, it would behoove Preller to lay plans for a stellar outfield - in which case, the Yankees might actually line up well with the Padres in a potential Soto trade.
In my article last week, I stated that if some unthinkable scenario occurred which led Preller to want to trade Soto, that he’d only settle for a post signing Ohtani return that would allow him to justify the move. That means that if the Yankees and Padres met at the bargaining table, with Soto’s bat replaced through free agency, it would assuredly cost the Yankees Jasson Domininguez if a deal were to happen.
There would obviously be many suitors for Soto if Preller was to shop Soto, only the most elite trade returns would be considered. Acquiring the incredibly hyped Dominguez would excite the Padres fan base, as would the presence of Ohtani (assuming he was signed in advance of any Soto trade).
Would I support a Dominguez for Soto trade? I would not. I recognize that Soto is a top of the game slugger, but I think the Yankees at this time need to focus on bang for the buck and they have too many holes to fill. No one star offensive player is going to make enough of an impact to justify the outlay of coin.
Understandably, Dominguez is meanwhile just a prospect, there is no guarantee he’ll ever be a star player. He may or may not pan out. I’m against paying Preller a hefty price in other prospects to acquire an uber expensive player who would likely have to transition to being a DH as he ages and likewise, I highly doubt he’d have any interest at all in a Yankees proposal that didn’t include Dominguez.
Therefore, I’d rather see the Yankees focus on adding multiple left handed bats and pitchers and I believe they should shore up premium positions, starting with a center fielder and a few top shelf starters.
Meanwhile, if the Yankees really are building around Aaron Judge, a prospect like Jasson Dominguez could be a very affordable answer in center field or left field and he’s one with potential upside. The Yankees would be best served by allocating their resources in a direction other than Soto’s, even though Soto is a left-handed masher and the Yankees lineup badly needs a player with that skill set.
Any Yankees fan will gladly part with a lesser package consisting of a backend starter like Clarke Shmidt and a group of stock down prospects like Everson Pereira, Oswald Peraza or Austin Wells or who knows, they might throw in other lesser pitching prospects in the hopes that Preller would actually bite and move one of the games best prospects for a virtually laughable return. I don’t think proposals like this are remotely realistic.
Therefore, I’m passing on trading Dominguez, who is the only Yankees prospect I think Preller would actually want - given that the established Aaron Judge is off the table. Soto is a young, generational hitting talent, but he’s one dimensional and he’ll be uber expensive - to the point where
landing him would mean that the Yankees would do very little else to improve.
Give me two way players any day and if the Yankees do want to spend really big, they’re better off revamping the rotation while also targeting a mix of other free agents. Given the Yankees many areas of need, I think there is a short list of free agents they should be all in on.
The Yankees should be trying to figure out which internal prospects are indeed part of their future plan, after which, they should be looking at the most imposing areas of team need. With Jordan Montgomery pitching like Whitey Ford these days, the importance of left-handed pitching has been subtly stressed to any Yankees fans still tuning in to meaningful October baseball games.