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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

SOTO! (Some Thoughts...)

by Paul Semendinger

December 7, 2023

***

Well, they did it. The Yankees landed the 25-year-old superstar.


I LOVE when the Yankees play big. I always want the Yankees to be in the market for the game's best players. The Yankees just generated excitement. A ton of excitement. I'll assume that the Yankees are going to sell a ton of Juan Soto jerseys - and just in time for the holidays. Yes, big time players cost a lot of money, but, big time players also generate a ton of money as well.


I have some other thoughts (and why wouldn't I)?


1) Soto is a 25-years-old superstar. He plays big. He brings excitement. He is a dynamic player. This is amazing. This is a big time big move. This is what big time teams do. It is time for the Yankees to go for it. This is a big step in that direction.


2) The Yankees cannot be done yet. Getting Soto was a HUGE step. But, he is not the answer alone. The Yankees still have more work to do.


3) Let's look at the Yankees' position players as it looks right now with each player's average stats over the last three seasons:


(Batting Average/Home Runs/Runs Batted In, OPS+)


1B- Anthony Rizzo: .238/22/59 113

2B- Gleyber Torres: .264/19/65 109

SS- Anthony Volpe: Has only played one season...

3B- DJ LeMahieu: .258/12/49 101

LF- Alex Verdugo: .278/12/64 103

CF- Aaron Judge: .291/46/101 178

RF- Juan Soto: .278/30/89 160

DH- Giancarlo Stanton: .230/30/78 114

C- Jose Trevino: .237/7/29 74


What's to like:


A) Rizzo, Verdugo, Soto, and Austin Wells (back-up catcher) - gives them four lefties when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound. That's the most amount of lefty hitters the Yankees have had in quite some time. That is a positive. And, they should all, at least the first three, be very good. That's a plus.


B) The Yankees should have good power in the line-up. It is possible that Rizzo, Torres, Volpe, Judge, Soto, and Stanton will all hit a minimum of 25 homers each. It is also possible that Verdugo could hit 20+, and maybe Austin Wells as well if he's the real deal. That being said, this isn't the typical (of late) home run or nothing type lineup. (I have noted this a million times now, but Juan Soto changes so much. No player gets on base as often as Juan Soto. Verdugo, also, brings a different approach. This is all good. It's great, in fact. This should be an exciting team to watch. (Let's be honest, the Yankees have been boring the last many years. Juan Soto helps to dramatically change that dynamic.)


C) It will be very rare that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge will bat back-to-back in the lineup, something I have said is a problem for years. It might never happen again. That's also a good thing.


D) For years the Yankees loaded up on players with a similar batting approach. Now, Soto, Verdugo, Rizzo, and LeMahieu have different approaches than the big time slugging right handed hitters. This balance is a good thing. This makes an opposing pitcher have to have more than one good pitch to get through the lineup. He can no longer get out the same type of batter inning after inning. (How many times did we see right handed curve ball/slider pitchers get batter after batter out with pitches that went out of the strike zone?) This makes the opposing pitcher have to dig into his arsenal more, and, by definition, work a bit harder. It also makes the job for an opposing manager a bit more difficult. One pitching approach will no longer work. The opposing manager will have to balance his bullpen better. This makes the Yankees more dangerous (and, again, much more exciting).


E) While I'm not thrilled with Alex Verdugo as a starter, at this moment, I think he can (and should) be the leadoff hitter. This should eliminate the urge to bat Anthony Volpe first and will allow him to bat ninth and just focus on becoming a better hitter without feeling like he has to jump start the offense. This lineup should help Anthony Volpe become the player he is capable of becoming.


F) There is now no need to rush Jasson Dominguez back in any way. He can heal, slowly. If he comes back and is ready to DH, and if Stanton is struggling again, the Yankees just might release Stanton to allow Dominguez to play DH. I feel this is possible now because it seems that the Yankees are finally going all-in. (Again, they're not there yet, more has to be done, but they're on their way.)


A BIG QUESTION:


Trent Grisham was part of the trade for Juan Soto. Trent Grisham is a defensive first player who strikes out a lot and doesn't hit very much, but he is a centerfielder.


This creates an interesting dynamic for the Yankees that has to be solved.


With Verdugo, I believe the Yankees have their leadoff hitter. But, with Verdugo, the Yankees would have to play Aaron Judge in centerfield, something I am not a big fan of. I'd like Judge to play right field which should be less taxing on his body, if only slightly. (This isn't a question of can Judge do it, it's more what's best for Judge's health - long and short term.)


With Grisham, the Yankees have a centerfielder who can cover a lot of ground. This allows Juan Soto to play left and the defensive concerns that so many share are solved a bit. With Grisham in center and Judge in right, 67% of the Yankees' outfield is elite defensively.


This will be interesting to see how it plays out. Grisham and Verdugo are both left-handed. and neither really hits lefties. I don't see a scenario where they'll both play at the same time. Maybe one will be traded going forward. Maybe Grisham will be used only as a defensive replacement.


What's not to like:


A) Aaron Judge had a big time injury last year. I'm not thrilled with him being the starting centerfielder. He is injured a lot (just a fact) and playing center can't be the best thing for his short or long-term health.


B) I don't think D.J. LeMahieu, at his age, is an everyday third baseman. That is a position that still needs to be improved.


C) The Yankees gave up a ton of pitching and they still need to address the starting rotation.


***

Lineups:


Let's take the position players above and make them into a batting order with each player's best season over the last three years (at least for the top seven hitters). This is an optimistic approach, but it's not totally unreasonable for these numbers to play out.


  1. Alex Verdugo: .289/16/33 (2021) - L

  2. D.J. LeMahieu: .261/12/46 (2022) - R

  3. Juan Soto: .313/29/95 (2021) - L

  4. Aaron Judge: .311/62/131 (2022) - R

  5. Anthony Rizzo: .224/32/75 (2022) - L

  6. Gleyber Torres: .273/25/68 (2023) - R

  7. Giancarlo Stanton: .273/35/97 (2021) - R

  8. Trevino/Wells:

  9. Anthony Volpe:

I like this because it keeps Volpe in the #9 spot, it moves Stanton way down the order, and it balances lefties and righties throughout the lineup. Jose Trevino won't hit much, but if Austin Wells can hit, that also adds to the line-up. And, if Anthony Volpe becomes the hitter so many think he can be, oh my... this becomes a very circular lineup.


Giancarlo Stanton might not hit again as he once did, but if he's a bad hitter in the #7 spot, it hurts a lot less than him batting higher (much higher) in the lineup as he has done the last many years. Imagine this... if Austin Wells and Anthony Volpe hit as so many project they will, it is possible that the worst hitter in the lineup is Giancarlo Stanton.


The following would be my lineup with Grisham in center:

  1. D.J. LeMahieu: .261/12/46 (2022) - R

  2. Juan Soto: .313/29/95 (2021) - L

  3. Aaron Judge: .311/62/131 (2022) - R

  4. Anthony Rizzo: .224/32/75 (2022) - L

  5. Gleyber Torres: .273/25/68 (2023) - R

  6. Giancarlo Stanton: .273/35/97 (2021) - R

  7. Trevino/Wells:

  8. Trent Grisham: .242/16/52 (2021) - L

  9. Anthony Volpe:

My gut is that the lineup with Verdugo better, even with me not wanting Judge in centerfield. The bottom of the second lineup is weak and Stanton moves to the sixth spot in the order.


Still, as can be seen, Juan Soto changes so much. Alex Verdugo also. The Yankees look a ton better today than they did only a few days ago.


***

Juan Soto is a Yankee. That is fantastic news.


The Yankees are showing they mean business, but they cannot be done yet. In recent years, when they made a big move, they still left holes. There are still holes for 2024, including needing at least one starting pitcher. They also have much less pitching depth. Yesterday they addressed one of the team's biggest needs. This is a huge step in the right direction.


The pitching needs will be discussed a ton in the next days and weeks, The Yankees still have a host of prospects they can trade for pitching. Bringing back Frankie Montas to be a back-end rotation starter would be a good move. I'll get greedy and note that the Brewers might be moving Corbin Burnes...


Oh, and the Yankees are meeting with Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Monday. Let's dream on that!


Yankees baseball just became a ton more exciting!

88 Comments


jjw49
Dec 07, 2023

I believe Yankee might still be in on Bellinger and if he Would take a 5-6 yr deal then they should sign him and they can trade Rizzo, Cabrera and Rovdveld to Miami for RHP Yury Perez. This protects Yankees if they can’t resign Soto to long term deal they replace the loss of King this year with Perez and they still have a shot at Yamamoto if he wants to sign w/ Yankees.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Dec 08, 2023
Replying to

I have been as hard on Cashman and Steinbrenner as anyone - for a long time. But, I think Hal is spending this winter. I think he senses and understands the need for the Yankees to play big.

Like

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Dec 07, 2023

At best, this is Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz, and we're Detroit. It pays off if and only if the Yankees win a World Series in 2024, because we're going to be watching 3-4 WAR pitchers King and Thorpe for at least the next two years, and in Thorpe's case, longer. In terms of expected future value, it's a grotesque overpay.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Dec 08, 2023
Replying to

An opting out would happen for any number of reasons, including money and also including leaving an organization that seems to have given up. That was the Yankees last year.


Thankfully, it doesn't seem to be the case today. (But let's see the next moves...)

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Dec 07, 2023

Grisham should bat 9th whenever he is in the starting lineup.


IMO, Wells will end up with a bit more than 50% of GS at catcher.


Unless there is another trade between now and the trade deadline, Pereira & Dominguez will be 2 of the starting OFs in SWB for most of the second half of 2024. My question is, will Spencer Jones be joining them come post trade deadline?


Can Volpe really be any worse in 2024 than he was in 2023? No. Why? A real HC, and now he can train his body to survive the rigors of a 162 game schedule.


With all the OFs now, Cabrera is not really needed to play out there on a…


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fuster
Dec 07, 2023

ticket sales for the Yankees in 2023


just ticket sales


and not any of the other revenues


amounted to $279M.

https://sports.yahoo.com/yankees-sold-279-million-2023-220111943.html

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Dec 07, 2023
Replying to

The Yankees should never let money get in the way of winning. They have plenty.

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Mike Whiteman
Dec 07, 2023

If Verdugo returns to the form he had until last year, he could definitely be an acceptable leadoff guy.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hoping for a 2009 scenario, when they had picked up Swisher, then the “expected” signings of Sabathia and Burnett, then the seemingly out of the blue pickup of Teixeria!

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Dec 08, 2023
Replying to

I agree!

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