11:00 a.m.: King, Thorpe, and “at least two” other players are likely to be part of the deal for Soto, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Morosi also says that a deal is very close to being settled.
8:42 a.m.: It looks like talks between the Yankees and Padres about star outfielder Juan Soto have gone on all night. According to Jack Curry of the YES Network, the Yankees have “intensified” their efforts to get Soto to leave San Diego. A move is “likely,” according to Curry, who says that pitchers Michael King and Drew Thorpe could both be available. As well as Thorpe and King, Jon Heyman of the New York Post says that Clarke Schmidt, Chase Hampton, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vasquez have also been talked about. There’s no chance that the Yankees will send all of those guns, but it’s likely that there will be more than just Thorpe and King.
Given the superstar slugger’s projected salary of $33 million (according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz), the Padres’ reported need to scale back payroll (while still adding to a perilously thin rotation mix), and the Yankees’ desire for aggressive and broad-reaching changes on the heels of a disappointing season, a trade that would send Soto to the Bronx has been considered a possibility for a significant portion of the offseason. In previous reports on the negotiations between the two parties, the Padres have been adamant about the inclusion of Major League Baseball rotation pieces, with King being the most prominent example of this priority. The fact that Curry brings up King and Thorpe as potential players who could be involved in this transaction appears to be a form of concession on the part of the Yankees.
Under the assumption that a trade is finalized, Soto would be the second outfielder that the Yankees have acquired in the span of just a few days. Last night, New York was able to pull off an extremely unusual and noteworthy trade with their bitter rivals in Boston. They were able to acquire Alex Verdugo, a fellow corner outfielder, from the Red Sox in return for a three-player deal. An outfield that was a weak point for the Bronx during the 2023 season would undergo a significant revamp as a result of the addition of Soto and Verdugo to the roster, which would also include Aaron Judge.
Even though Judge was a part of the team, the Yankees’ outfielders had a terrible performance as a whole.A hitting line of 220/.293/.399 during the previous season. Even when the productivity of the 2022 American League Most Valuable Player is taken into account, the resultant 90 wRC+ indicates that the Yankees outfielders were around 10% below average at the plate. After taking Judge out of the equation, the outfielders for the Yankees posted a disastrous hitting line of.214/.247/.365 for the season as a whole.
An outfield consisting of Verdugo, Judge, and Soto would be significantly more productive and would also significantly improve the Yankees’ strikeout problems. In 2023, Verdugo fanned at a rate of only 15.4%, while Soto’s strikeout percentage was not significantly higher at 18.2%. Given that both Soto and Verdugo are scheduled to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2024 season, they are both considered to be one-year answers in the outfield.
For the 2019 season, it is likely that the Yankees would move Judge to the center field position on a regular basis, while Verdugo will play left field and Soto will play right field. In the past, the Padres and the Yankees had explored the possibility of incorporating San Diego center fielder Trent Grisham in a Soto package. However, Heyman tweeted that after the purchase of Verdugo, it is no longer expected that Grisham will be a part of the negotiations with the Friars. However, Yankees manager Aaron Boone did acknowledge to Brendan Kuty of The Athletic and other reporters just now that the team would be happy with Judge playing center field every day during the upcoming season. This is despite the fact that Boone is unable to formally comment on any potential acquisition of Soto.
The Yankees are already projected by Roster Resource to have a payroll that is greater than $245 million and to have luxury tax commitments that are greater than $256 million. With Soto, those figures would be raised to around $278 million and $289 million, respectively. The Yankees are already functionally at the second luxury-tax level, which means that the penalties they face for incorporating Soto’s contract into the fold will be more extensive than they would have been otherwise. If they were a team that was paying the luxury tax for the third consecutive season, they would be subject to a tax of 62% for exceeding by $20-40MM and a significant surcharge of 95% on the further $20MM that they spent. In the case of Soto, this would amount to around $24.5 million in fines, which would be added to his anticipated compensation of $33 million.
Of course, more changes could have an effect on that budget and roster forecast. Yanks star NPB right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto has been mentioned to many teams, and they are seen as one of the favorites to get him. What if that doesn’t work out? The Yankees might need to get help in the rotation from outside the team, especially if King and/or Schmidt are part of the trade that gets them Soto. If the Yankees added Soto and then added another important pitcher to their rotation (unless they bought an arm before the arbitration process started), they would be in the newly created fourth tier of luxury tax penalties, which is often called the “Steve Cohen tax” after the owner of the Mets across the street.