Yankees get Juan Soto in blockbuster trade with Padres

December 7th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For months, the Yankees have envisioned clad in their pinstripes, pondering the sight of one of the world’s most productive sluggers taking aim at Yankee Stadium’s inviting right-field porch.

That tantalizing fantasy is about to become reality.

Soto is officially heading to the Bronx, acquired by the Yankees from the Padres on Wednesday night as part of a blockbuster seven-player trade that was the talk of baseball’s Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

The 25-year-old Soto comes to New York with outfielder Trent Grisham in exchange for five players: right-handers Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez, plus catcher Kyle Higashioka. MLB Pipeline ranks Thorpe as the No. 99 prospect on their overall Top 100 list, while Vásquez was the Yankees’ 13th-ranked prospect.

Yankees receive: OF Juan Soto, OF Trent Grisham
Padres receive: RHP Michael King, RHP Jhony Brito, RHP prospect Drew Thorpe (No. 99 in MLB), RHP prospect Randy Vásquez (No. 13 on Yankees), catcher Kyle Higashioka

“He's as good an offensive player as there is,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Soto before the trade was completed. “He is a machine offensively -- on base, power, and has accomplished a ton already at a young age.”

Soto is coming off a 2023 season in which he batted .275/.410/.519 (158 OPS+) in 162 games for San Diego. He hit 35 homers, 32 doubles, a triple and had 109 RBIs.

A three-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger, Soto led the Majors with 132 walks, finishing sixth in the National League MVP race. GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees were aggressive in their pursuit, according to Padres GM A.J. Preller.

“They clearly made it known that this was a deal and a player [they wanted],” Preller said. “Brian is pretty direct, and I think they were pretty clear. Everybody understood they had a need and Juan is an incredible player who fit the need really well. When you have two teams that line up and you have a team that’s calling you consistently, you feel this is something that has a chance to happen.”

Over his six-year big league career with the Nationals (2018-22) and Padres (2022-23), Soto has compiled a .284/.421/.524 slash line, belting 160 homers with 483 RBIs in 779 games.

Lauded by Cashman as a “transformational bat,” Soto is entering his final year under contract before free agency, which prompted San Diego to place him on the trade market. Soto had a $23 million salary during the 2023 season and, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, is projected to earn in excess of $30 million in arbitration in 2024.

Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 million proposal from the Nationals in July 2022, and though the Yankees will certainly attempt to sign Soto to an extension that would secure him a place as one of the club’s highest-paid players, agent Scott Boras has historically guided most of his players toward the open market.

As rumors swirled through the Opryland’s lobbies on Wednesday, Boras said that he had not broached the possibility of an extension with Soto, noting that Soto was still a member of the Padres.

“When you’re a great player, you’re a professional, and you always hope that wherever you’re at, you have a chance to win and a chance to play well,” Boras said. “Certainly, at this level with those kinds of players, that’s where players end up -- because the teams inquiring know that they have to make a substantial investment in them now and in the future.”

Coupled with the Yanks’ trade with the Red Sox for Alex Verdugo on Tuesday, Soto’s acquisition projects an outfield alignment in which Verdugo could play left field, Aaron Judge would play center field and Soto would be in right field. Grisham, a two-time Gold Glover, figures to serve as a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement.

All indications are that Soto should feel right at home in the Bronx. To date, Soto has played only seven games at Yankee Stadium, though his performance has been stellar in that small sample size. Soto is 6-for-23 (.261) in the Bronx with a double and four homers, driving in nine runs while compiling a 1.219 OPS.

"I don't know if it's his favorite,” Boras said, “but when you're Juan Soto, you kind of show up and every ballpark's a favorite.”

It is basically unprecedented for a player this good, this young to play for so many teams. Soto will become just the sixth position player to have accrued at least 20 career WAR through his age-25 season and played for at least three teams, and the other five all played before 1900. In other words, a player like this being traded twice before completing his age-25 season had never happened in modern baseball.

Soto has drawn comparisons to one of the greatest hitters of all time in Ted Williams, and for good reason. He’s a career .284/.421/.524 hitter with a 157 OPS+, the fifth-highest for any player with 3,000 plate appearances through his age-24 season. The players above him? Ty Cobb, Mike Trout, Mickey Mantle and Jimmie Foxx – three Hall of Famers and one on that trajectory.

As Boone said, “He’s been one of the rock-solid performers in our sport on the offensive side of the ball, year in and year out.”

And now he’s a Yankee.