Tuesday Discussion- At What Cost Soto?
October 17, 2023
This week we asked our writers to respond to the following:
Let's assume the Padres are willing to trade Juan Soto. And let's assume (because it makes all the difference in the discussion) that the Yankees can lock him up long term. In other words, the Yankees trade for, and will have Juan Soto for the next ten years. If that is the case, what would you be willing to send to the Padres in a trade for Juan Soto? Is Jasson Dominguez off-limits? Is anyone?
Here are their responses:
Lincoln Mitchell - I would trade anybody in the Yankees organization one for one for Soto including Dominguez. I would send Dominguez and another top prospect or two, but not much more than that
Paul Semendinger - I would give the Padres whatever they asked for. Juan Soto is one of the best players in the game today. He is the active leader in On-Base Percentage. He also hits for power. He is left-handed. He will be only 25-years-old for the 2024 season. He plays every day. The Yankees could use a durable young left-handed power hitting on-base-machine in their lineup. Soto's numbers compare favorably (if not better) to Bryce Harper's at the same points in their careers. The Yankees let Harper, a generational talent in his mid-20s, get away in 2019. They can't let the same happen with Soto. I'd happily depart with any of the young talent, including Anthony Volpe or Jasson Dominguez in a trade for Juan Soto. Soto will be a top player for a decade or more. He'll be around when, hopefully, the next great era comes. He is young enough to build around. He is the star the Yankees hope just one of their prospects becomes. The Yankees need to go big - this would be going big.
Ed Botti - Baseball is not Basketball. One player does not change the entire team.
The last thing this team needs is another massive contract holding them down in the future. If it came down to one missing piece to go for it all, maybe I would be open to it. But as is, this team needs much more than a player that has hit .259 over the last 1,092 at bats (2022 and 2023) unless the price was reasonable, which it will not be.
The Padres will want multiple top prospects, and then they have to resign him, knowing he has already turned down a kings ransom from the Nationals, and Scott Boros is his agent. That is a huge risk. He is a great talent, for sure. I would rather see this team continue to build with young controllable players, and when they prove to us that they are ready to win it all, then and only then, add in a missing piece or two. They are not there yet. Much more needs to be done before bringing in another gazillionaire prima donna.
In other words, the front office needs to be much better and build a strong nucleus before anyone is rewarded with a top free agent. Sorry, but that is how they ended up where they are.
As far as trading away a 20 year old Dominguez? No chance. He could be the next Soto, or similar type of impact player at a much more reasonable rate. Ditto for Spencer Jones. I am not trading either one. Judge, Dominguez and Jones in 2024 or 2025 outfield sounds like a good plan. Go get a third baseman and a starter, that is the glaring need.
This team needs change. Trading away most of your top prospects for a massive contract player is not change, it’s the same stuff we have seen for a long time. Learn from mistakes!
They are not an outfielder away from catching the elite teams in the AL. They need ball players on this team. Last time I checked, Soto didn’t tilt the scales in the 82-80 San Padres favor. That’s Baseball Suzyn!
Mike Whiteman - Through his age 24 season, Juan Soto is one of the elite hitters in baseball. Here's who baseball-reference lists as his comparables through age 24:
Ken Griffey Jr.
Four Hall of Famers. Two certain to be Hall of Famers. One likely to be a Hall of Famer.
Outside of Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole, everyone is available. I'd like to hang onto some of Mike King, Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells. and Jasson Dominguez, but none would hold up the deal for me.
Cary Greene - 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.
*** Ethan Semendinger - I don't think the qualifier of bringing in Juan Soto for 8000 years is important in this scenario. Instead, I think the idea of bringing in Juan Soto leads us to asking the question: "Are the Yankees willing to go all-in on Judge and Cole in their primes?"
If they are, then Juan Soto is a player that they have to bring in to make it to a ring.
It's not (or shouldn't be) a controversial statement to say that Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole are not going to stay at this level for ever. And, it could be coming sooner than we all hope. (See the quick fall from grace of Giancarlo Stanton.) So, while the going is still good, it would be wise for the Yankees to go all-in now and worry about the long-term future later.
If the Padres are willing to trade Soto, give them Dominguez. Trade them anybody who won't be making an immediate and irreplaceable impact at the MLB level in 2024. The idea of keeping around prospects at the current moment is worthless, if, by the time they are ready the Yankees will be too far in the hole on prime-less Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole.
This is the bed the Yankees have made for themselves financially and nothing indicates that they are willing to open their wallets like the good ol' days.
(With this move, the Yankees should also go all-out to bring in Yoshiobu Yamamoto and Yuki Matsui so that they could trade away a pitcher like Clarke Schmidt/Michael King in that Soto deal too.)
Patrick Gunn - Getting Juan Soto would probably require saying goodbye to Jasson Dominguez, along with some combination of Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Will Warren, Drew Thorpe, Austin Wells, Clayton Beeter, Chase Hampton, and Spencer Jones, to name a few. This really depends how high you think Dominguez’s ceiling is right now. At the moment, I’d be willing to give up on Dominguez for no fault of his; Soto is a proven generational talent who’s only a few days away from turning 25. Not to mention he’s already elevated two teams to deep October runs. I understand the defensive/base-running concerns, but the last generational power hitting lefty the Yankees passed on - Bryce Harper - has been pretty solid so far. It’s close, but I’d say go for it. With that said, I’d probably prefer to wait until free agency rather than cut the Bombers’ farm depth right now, but Soto is so legit, I think it’s worth taking a swing for the fences on him.
Andy Singer - Juan Soto is exactly the type of player we dream that Jasson Dominguez can one day become...of course, many talent evaluators said the same of Aaron Judge as a prospect by comparing him at the same age to Giancarlo Stanton...and we know how that one worked out. That said, Juan Soto is the exact type of left-handed bat that fits Yankee Stadium perfectly while getting on-base at a clip that is almost unheard of in the modern game. Offensively, even Soto's slumps keep him in the middle of a batting order. The Yankees should push incredibly hard to get Soto.
That doesn't mean he's flawless as a player, however. Soto has battled looking uninterested at times both in Washington and San Diego and his defense floats somewhere between below-average and atrocious. Soto should be a star at the plate through his early 30s at least, but he'll be a DH-only by his late-20s at this rate, and we know how well that plays in NY.
Soto is one of the most valuable players in the game, easily worth the presumed $30+ million per year he'll cost this season and beyond. Complicating his trade value, though, is the Padres' finances. Ownership there deserves credit for spending every cent they can muster to win, but the whispers are that their payroll to debt ratio is beyond MLB's guidelines, and they have to cut payroll this winter. That will severely impact the return the Padres can expect on the trade market this off-season. Don't believe me? Look back at the return the Red Sox got for Mookie Betts, who was at least Soto's equal in value.
Baseball Trade Values is a great site to play around with that does a decent job of approximating value, though I think it is low in Soto's case even considering the Padres' lack of leverage, and as much as the Mookie Betts trade is an instructive proxy for this situation, the Padres do not want to be remembered similarly. The Red Sox received an MLB-caliber starting outfielder, one former top prospect who had lost some shine, and a mid-level prospect lottery ticket. The Padres need controllable starting pitching, an outfielder to fill the hole losing Soto will create, and young talent.
Given the reality of the Padres leverage, Judge, Cole, and King are off-limits. I am also disinclined to include Volpe or Dominguez...HOWEVER, if including one of them is the last step to get the deal over the finish line, I'd do it.
My framework would look like this: SP Clarke Schmidt, OF Everson Pereira, SS/3B Trey Sweeney, OF Spencer Jones to the Padres for Juan Soto. Baseball Trade Values tells me that this is a very significant overpay, but I think it is a more realistic representation of fair value under the circumstances. If the Padres insisted on one of Volpe or Dominguez (Dominguez being far more likely), I'd remove Spencer Jones and Everson Pereira from the deal. This beats the Mookie Betts deal by a fair margin and likely outstrips the competition.