Regarding the necessary matter of San Diego’s willingness to trade the young slugger, Andy Martino writes:
“The strong expectation of rival executives is that Soto, 25 years old and entering his final season before free agency, would be available in ‘the right deal,’ as one non-Padres and non-Yankees exec put it. That means that San Diego is not actively shopping Soto, but is not ruling out a move, either.”
The Yankees badly need offensive help alongside superstar Aaron Judge, and they also have a need for left-handed power. Soto would meet both needs and then some. In 2023, Soto, who turned 25 on Wednesday, played in all 162 games and had a batting line of .275/.410/.519 with 35 home runs and an MLB-leading 132 walks. An elite combination of power and plate discipline, Soto for his career owns a highly impressive OPS+ of 157 across parts of six major-league seasons. The three-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger is slated for free agency after the 2024 season.
The Padres originally acquired Soto in August 2022 from the Nationals as part of an eight-player blockbuster at a cost of multiple premium prospects. Soto joined an already star-stuffed roster in San Diego, but his first full season with the Padres in 2023 yielded disappointment. The Padres creaked to an 82-80 finish despite in the face of heavy preseason expectations. The struggles of 2023 plus their status as the highest-payroll team outside of New York figures to prompt the team to trim salary this offseason. The extent of those cuts, however, remains to be seen. Soto in his final year of salary arbitration is poised for a substantial raise over his $23 million salary from last season.
Needless to say, a trade for Soto would drastically improve the lot of the Yankees and also invigorate a frustrated Yankee fan base. The Padres, though, may ultimately not be willing to compromise their own 2024 hopes to such an extent. If they do decide to move Soto, then the Yankees will surely have company in trying to land him.