The Yankees’ timid trend took a break on Wednesday as a maligned front office made the biggest splash of MLB’s Winter Meetings so far, acquiring superstar outfielder Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres.
New York is giving up a five-player package that includes pitchers Drew Thorpe, Michael King, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vasquez along with catcher Kyle Higashioka. Soto is only under team control for one more season before hitting free agency in the winter of 2024, but the Yankees’ willingness to part with several pieces ultimately suggests that they’re confident in securing him in the Bronx for the long haul.
The Yankees are also getting outfielder Trent Grisham, who is under team control for two more years, to use as a fourth outfielder.
Talks had been ongoing before the Winter Meetings began on Monday but hit a stalemate when general manager Brian Cashman was reportedly unwilling to part with some of his pitchers — most notably King and Thorpe. But talks ramped back up on Tuesday into Wednesday and with it, optimism that something could get done even after New York acquired left-handed outfielder Alex Verdugo from the rival Boston Red Sox on Tuesday evening.
Soto is the complementary bat the Yankees have been starving for to put alongside Aaron Judge. A slugging left-hander who will prey off the short porch in the Bronx, the 25-year-old is one of the premier hitters in baseball having already built a remarkable resume over six pro seasons.
A 2019 world champion with the Washington Nationals, Soto boasts a career slash line of .284/.421/.524 (.946 OPS) with 162-game averages of 33 home runs and 100 RBI. Since his debut in 2018, his OPS ranks fourth in all of baseball behind only Mike Trout, Judge, and Yordan Alvarez while his on-base percentage ranks No. 1.
With an ability to play both left and right field — albeit an inconsistent outfield, at most — the Yankees have overhauled a major question mark in mere hours. Manager Aaron Boone on Wednesday said that he is OK with Judge playing center field every day while Verdugo can step in at right field, where he spent last season while in Boston. That allows Soto to assume left field at Yankee Stadium.