Soto trade talk pauses for Yanks, interest doesn't

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The mental image of regularly taking aim at Yankee Stadium’s right-field porch may be too tantalizing to ignore, even amid reports that discussions between the Padres and Yankees hit a snag in advance of this week’s Winter Meetings.

Indeed, while the Yankees have paused their talks with San Diego, their interest in the 25-year-old Soto has hardly cooled.

“He’s with another team, [but] it speaks for itself what a great player he is, what a great start of his career that he’s had,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said on the YES Network. “But he’s a great Padre right now, so we’ll see what happens as the week unfolds. But all I can say is, he’s a pretty special player.”

According to published reports, San Diego asked the Yankees for a package of six or seven players centered around right-handers Michael King and Drew Thorpe, with right-handers Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez also mentioned. The Padres also insisted that the Yankees take on outfielder Trent Grisham as salary relief; Grisham earned $3.175 million this past season.

Despite the high asking price, Soto would offer an immediate boost to a Yankees offense that -- outside of Aaron Judge -- struggled to muster run production in 2023.

Playing his first full season in San Diego, Soto batted .275/.410/.519 (158 OPS+) with 35 home runs and 109 RBIs in 162 games, leading the Majors with 132 walks while earning his third All-Star selection.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said the club is seeking two outfielders, preferably left-handed hitters, to supplement Judge. Free agent is another leading option, and the Yanks are also thought to have interest in veteran .

But Soto is the player who best captures fans’ imaginations, even though he remains under control for only one more season, set to hit the free-agent market after the 2024 campaign.

Represented by Scott Boras, Soto’s asking price may approach or exceed the average annual value of the nine-year, $360 million pact that Judge landed a year ago; in July 2022, Soto turned down a 14-year, $440 million extension from the Nationals.

Dave Martinez, who managed Soto in Washington, said he has no doubt Soto could handle playing in New York.

“He loves to play the game of baseball,” Martinez said. “I’ll tell you a story: first time I ever met him, I just asked him, ‘Hey, what motivates you? What drives you?’ And the first thing he says is, ‘I love baseball. That's all I want to do.’ So he'll handle it very well.”

Injury updates
Boone said Judge (right big toe), outfielder Jasson Domínguez (Tommy John surgery), first baseman Anthony Rizzo (post-concussion syndrome) and left-hander Nestor Cortes (left rotator cuff strain) are all progressing well.

Domínguez has continued his rehab in Tampa, Fla., and is expected to be ready sometime in the summer, while Boone said Rizzo is “in great shape right now” and should report to Spring Training ready to go.

Boone said Cortes began his throwing program on Monday and is targeting a normal ramp-up to the spring, while Judge has had no issues concerning the right toe he injured in June.