Tim Britton, Grant Brisbee and Stephen J. by Nesbitt
Yankees get: Juan Soto, OF, Trent Grisham, OF
Padres get: Michael King, RHP; Drew Thorpe, RHP; Johnny Brito, RHP; Randy Vasquez, RHP; and Kyle Higashioka, c
Tim Britton: Every team would be better if they added Juan Soto. But no team needs Soto more than the Yankees.
And it’s not just for narrative reasons — having one of the game’s best hitters coming off your worst season in three decades helps that way. But in 2023, only two teams saw worse production from their left-handed hitters than the Yankees. Only one team gave lefties fewer plate appearances than New York. Bad for any team playing in a ballpark designed to cater to southpaw sluggers.
The Yankees ranked 26th in the majors in OPS from their outfield, despite Aaron Judge. Remove him from the calculation, and New York’s outfielders slashed .214/.276/.360 for a .636 OPS. So yes, even if it costs you a good pitching prospect and a promising big league arm, what do you have to do to add Soto’s career .946 OPS to that group? You add his otherworldly eye, the power to play in the Bronx and the versatility he brings to a lineup that has steadily grown over the past several years. It was Juan Soto.
For San Diego, part of the trade for Soto was knowing that if things went south, they could always try to offset some future expense by moving forward in free agency. They got an NLCS appearance from the trade and got some legitimate talent back, but things went south financially. Soto is difficult to turn positive.
Yankees grade: A
Parent Grade: C
Grand Brisbee: Juan Soto is on the Hall of Fame track. Check it out, he’s on track to be an inner-circle Hall of Famer, right up there with the greats. If you want to take it back, remember the dude just turned 25. Twenty-five years ollllllld. There are four players of 25 or more MLB’s Top 100 Prospect List.
It’s not just a hobby. If you’re looking at a guy hitting free agency after a really great career, don’t you need 10 months where you’re the only team in baseball who can talk to him about an extension? It not only plants the seeds, it also waters them and puts them under a halogen lamp. The Yankees are giving up a lot of talent for a one-year rental that people will lament, especially when it comes to big league production in 2024, but that’s not all. This is a test run. See how welcoming Yankees fans are? See how well the narrow corridor on the right serves you? Why not stay here for another 14 years?
My only quibble with the Yankees is pushing Aaron Judge to center field, which isn’t ideal for a big 30-something with a toe injury, but that’s really Alex Vertugo’s fault. Juan Soto is with the Yankees. That is something to celebrate.
Juan Soto is no longer with the Padres. I understand why, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t depressing. They needed arms to make up for a lot of what they’d lose in free agency, and they’d have to shed payroll because their spendthrift would be skewed, which isn’t sustainable.
That doesn’t mean it won’t absorb. They lose a guy who played 162 games for them last year and had a .410 on-base percentage, .930 OPS and 158 OPS+. They need to replace pitchers, yes, but how? They still have a lot of great players, but they were already below the league average in runs scored per game. Losing 162 games of an on-base wizard is nearly impossible.
To be clear, talent is coming back. Michael King will help immediately. Drew Thorpe looks like a fast mover. Randy Vasquez had a polished era in the majors and a dusty FIP, and he struggled with his control in the minors, but he should help at some point in the future.
There’s plenty of hope the other way, though, which is a tough thing to love from the Padres’ perspective.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: The last left-handed (or switch) hitters with a .400 OBP in a full season for the Yankees were Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu. It’s been 16 years since any of them last did that.
The last Yankees lefties to post a 140 OPS+ over a full season were Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira. It’s been a decade since any of them last did that.
Soto never had a 400 OBP or 140 OPS+ season. Not in the majors. Not in minors. Maybe not a sweet swinging kid in Santo Domingo again! In today’s game, Soto is in a class of his own as a hitter. Plus eye, plus communication, plus power. He has a World Series ring, a Home Run Derby trophy, and a batting title, though he looks proudest when he spits a ball inches from the plate. His expertise meshes nicely with the Yanks’ biggest need. Soto will spray baseballs around Yankee Stadium in 2024 and park them in short corridors, creating a pinnacle of power and patience with Judge.
Grisham doesn’t move the needle offensively, but he gives the Yankees a fourth outfielder who can play center while they await the arrival of Jason Dominguez.
The next question, of course, is whether they’ll stick together for a season. If that’s all there is to it, the Yankees better make it count. Their first order of business is to strengthen the rest of the roster — starting with a rotation that lost depth in this trade.
For the Padres, a comeback is a comeback. That’s fine if you take the position that the Padres need to move Soto and his projected $33 million salary soon. But it doesn’t bowl you over. Michael King has been pretty good at times and has been even better lately, but he’s 28 years old, two years into free agency, and he’s yet to carry a full starting workload in the majors. Thorpe, a 2022 sophomore, is a promising prospect with significant upside as a starter. He’s coming off a great season — a 2.52 ERA between High A and Double A — and was named MLB Pipeline’s Pitching Prospect of the Year. Still, the Padres aren’t bringing in any can’t-miss guys here. The only certainty here is that the boy will go the other way.
Before the trade, the Padres’ projected 2024 rotation featured Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and then a steep drop-off. Between King, Thorpe, Brito and Vazquez they will anchor the back of the rotation for next season and solidify things for the future. It can work well. But generally you’re not going to send out a Soto-sized bat and look like a winner.
(Top image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)