The New York Yankees have swung a blockbuster trade with the San Diego Padres for All-Star slugging outfielder Juan Soto, the teams announced late Wednesday night. In exchange for Soto and outfielder Trent Grisham, the Padres will receive a package of RHP Michael King, RHP Drew Thorpe, RHP Jhony Brito, RHP Randy Vásquez and catcher Kyle Higashioka.
The 25-year-old Soto, who is entering his walk year in 2024, has been one of the top pure hitters in the game across his career. For the Padres last season, he slashed .275/.410/.519 with 35 home runs and an MLB-leading 132 walks. Soto for his career owns a deeply impressive OPS+ of 157 across parts of six MLB seasons. Over that span, Soto has earned three All-Star selections, four Silver Sluggers, and four top-10 finishes in the NL MVP balloting.
Perhaps one of Soto’s underrated qualities is his durability. Throw out the COVID-abbreviated 2020 campaign, and Soto since 2019 has averaged 154 games played per season. While he’s best deployed as a DH long-term — Giancarlo Stanton’s primary role with the Yankees — Soto easily does enough at the plate to make up for any deficiencies in the outfield. With a career WAR of 28.6 through his age-24 campaign, it’s no stretch to say Soto is on a Hall of Fame track.
The Padres chose to move on from Soto largely because of their desire to cut payroll after a disappointing 2023 season in which they ran one of the highest payrolls in MLB. Soto in his final trip through the arbitration process figures to make a 2024 salary in excess of $30 million as he prepares to become a free agent next winter.
For the Yankees, the Soto addition comes soon after their deal to Aaron Judge to the up-the-middle position.This complicates the situation in center field, as the Yankees are either going to have to stretch Verdugo defensively in center or return franchise slugger
Perhaps a move back to that more demanding role raises some concerns about Judge’s capacity to stay healthy, but it’s worth noting that Judge was the team’s primary center fielder in 2022, when he set the AL record for home runs in a season and won the MVP. As for Verdugo, he hasn’t seen meaningful time in center since 2021 and only once, in 2019 as a member of the Dodgers, has it been his primary position. That said, the Yankees will certainly live with whatever center-field arrangement they land on since it means getting Soto’s elite bat in the lineup.