Juan Soto is headed to the Bronx.
Soto is set to be part of a revamped Yankees outfield with Aaron Judge and Alex Verdugo, following the team's acquisition of the outfielder in a trade Tuesday with the Red Sox.
In return, the Padres will receive Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez and Kyle Higashioka. The Yankees will also receive outfielder Trent Grisham in the swap.
Padres boost pitching staff, acquire 2 top prospects
Thorpe is a prized right-hander who was selected in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft. He led minor-league pitchers with 182 strikeouts in 2023, earning the MiLB Pitching Prospect of the Year Award, and he was named by Baseball America as the Yankees’ Minor League Player of the Year. He’s currently ranked by MLB as the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect and finished 2023 with the Double-A Somerset Patriots.
Vásquez, also a right-handed pitcher, is New York’s 14th-ranked prospect, per MLB. He appeared in 11 games for the Yankees in 2023, logging a 2.87 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. Brito, 25, went 9-7 as a part-time starter as a rookie last season, posting a 4.28 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 28 walks in 90 1/3 innings pitched.
King is a 28-year-old reliever and spot starter who posted a 2.75 ERA with 127 strikeouts and 32 walks in a career-high 104 2/3 innings last season. Higashioka, 33, is a veteran catcher who has played all seven of his MLB seasons with the Yankees. He slashed .236/.274/.413 last season, with 10 home runs and 34 RBI in 92 games.
Imagine Aaron Judge and Juan Soto hitting back-to-back for the Yankees 🤯 pic.twitter.com/LsgelhR28e
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) December 7, 2023
Trade ends Soto era in San Diego
Soto's exit signals a move to cut payroll in San Diego after a spending spree under late owner Peter Seidler produced a trip to the NLCS in 2022 before a disappointing 82-80 campaign in 2023 fell short of the postseason.
Soto is approaching his final season of arbitration eligibility and is reportedly expected to command $33 million for the 2024 season in lieu of a long-term deal. It's a price the Padres weren't willing to pay alongside the risk of losing him for nothing when he becomes a free agent next winter.
Soto played one-and-a-half seasons with the Padres following a blockbuster trade from the Washington Nationals at the 2022 MLB trade deadline. During his time in Washington, he emerged as arguably baseball's best hitter.
After helping the Nationals to a World Series championship in 2019, Soto finished in the top five in MVP voting in consecutive seasons. He won a batting title while slashing .351/.490/.695 in 2020's COVID-19-shortened season. He followed with a slash line of .313/.465/.534 with 29 home runs, 95 RBI and nine stolen bases in 2021 while finishing second to Bryce Harper in MVP voting.
His ascendance triggered lucrative, long-term contract negotiations with the Nationals that never came to fruition. Soto reportedly rejected a 15-year, $440 million offer in 2021, a decision that opened up the trade market and ultimately led to his landing in San Diego.
Juan Soto never seemed to fit with Padres
Soto joined a Padres roster featuring fellow All-Stars Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth and Fernando Tatis Jr., alongside a pitching rotation featuring Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. The Padres also signed All-Star infielder Xander Bogaerts to a $280 million contract ahead of the 2023 season. Soto's arrival had signaled the intent of the previously frugal Padres to go all-in to compete for the franchise's first World Series championship.
Instead, Soto struggled in his first half-season in San Diego and never reached the heights of his MVP candidacy in Washington. He slashed .236/.388/.390 in 52 games with the Padres in 2022. San Diego made the postseason despite those struggles and the loss of Tatis to injury and PED suspension.
In 2023, Soto returned to All-Star form while slashing .275/.410/519 with a career-high 35 home runs. But the Padres finished third in the NL West and never really challenged for a postseason berth. Now, without a long-term contract for Soto, the Padres have prioritized spending elsewhere for 2024.
Soto, still just 25, will likely command one of the richest contracts in baseball history when he eventually secures a long-term deal.