You want to win a championship then you go and get Juan Soto. The Yankees got the player they believe can get them to their first World Series since their last championship in 2009. Last year, the Yankees’ season left a bad taste with everyone including owner Hal Steinbrenner.
GM Brian Cashman labeled the season a disaster. But one player, Soto, at a rental expense, can be that difference maker in the lineup. The owner and GM believe Soto will be the difference, even though his long term stay in the Bronx is uncertain as that impending free agent who will likely be rewarded with a long term contract.
Though the Yankees for now are not concerned with a contract or where Soto lands long term. They got Soto from the Padres because they are in it to win in 2024, despite sacrificing four pitchers that are Major League ready. Righthanders Michael King and prospect Drew Thorpe were major pieces of the deal with Johnny Brito and Randy Vasquez (13th rated prospect) along with catcher Kyle Higashioka,
But the emphasis and talk is about Soto. This blockbuster trade perhaps historic for a Yankees franchise, a team last year that ranked 25th with 4.15 runs per game, 29th in batting average (.227) and 34th in OPS (.701). They sought Soto and it took effort to get him.
Risk with a walk-off year and sacrificing pitching? Then again, the risk for now is anticipating the Soto numbers that come to the Bronx, a trade reminiscent of the tendencies of the late George Steinbrenner, his strategy of achieving nothing less than another World Series or championship trophy.
The Soto Numbers:
– 949 career OPS is third highest among active players.
– Multiple seasons with 30 plus home runs and 100 walks prior to the age of 25 (courtesy of Sarah Lang) Only Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Eddie Matthews, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmy Fox are in that group.
Loyal reader and Yankees fan Damon Brooks commented on my Facebook post about Soto: “Mid to 90’s dominate years for Yanks was pitching, defense, clutch hitting, not 60, 60, 40 homers which will probably be Aaron Judge, Soto and Giancarlo Stanton numbers.” Though Stanton needs a tremendous rebound to hit those numbers, a Soto and Judge back-to-back in the lineup does change the complexion of how opposing managers will challenge this.
And there have been references of the Yankees once again known as “The Evil Empire.” I would not go to that extent because the Hal Steinbrenner strategy has been nothing like his late dad of spending, except with lucrative and long term contacts to Judge and ace Gerrit Cole.
Soto, though, is the blockbuster trade. Obviously, the strategy has changed and Soto is the high profile young player that brings back memories of the Yankees strategy of obtaining what they sought during that so-called Evil Empire.
The strategy had to change and that word disaster caused an uproar with the fan base. Soto, despite a one-year rental for now, and his presence changed the strategy. From all reports there is more to come.
The Yankees needed more left handed presence in the lineup and have that now with Soto and a trade with the Red Sox for outfielder Alex Verdugo. The need to get younger and more athletic, and maybe not rely on analytics as they have in the past, although Cashman has stated the Yankees analytic department is not among the largest in the AL East or in MLB.
But one player, Soto, has changed things for the short term. Soto could be that impact player as the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays are teams the Yankees have to surpass along with the Red Sox. 82 wins in 2023 was not acceptable with the second highest payroll in baseball and failing to reach the playoffs.
So Steinbrenner and Cashman got the best player on the market, exception of course Shohei Ohtani, who is expected in the next few days to end the suspense of his next destination. Not to say that Soto will achieve similar numbers and play all 162 games coming off another all-star season,
He gets on base, does not strike out much, and Soto’s outfield play is respectable. You hope the injury hex of the Yankees will not hinder Soto. You look at the outfield alignment of Soto and Verdugo in the corners, Judge possibly in center. And Trent Grisham, a fourth outfielder via the Soto trade from the Padres, is in the mix.
Cashman said Wednesday about the Soto trade, “Another manifestation of the Steinbrenner legacy.” Indeed, George always wanted those best players wearing Yankees pinstripes. He got Reggie [Jackson], [Mark] Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and many more.
Well, Juan Soto is one of those best players. Long Term or short term in the Bronx, the Yankees are not assured of that status. For now, though, the Yankees are one player better than they were when they finished that disaster in early October.
Rich Mancuso: X (formerly Twitter) @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso