The 2024 Yankees took a page out of their own history books last night when they acquired one of the biggest fish in the ocean, pulling in OF Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres.
The long rumored move became finalized as a 7 player swap, with New York also acquiring defensive specialized outfielder Trent Grisham (CF) as well. The Yankees give up four pitchers and a catcher in return, sacrificing a good chunk of their youth to secure one of the games’ premier left handed power bats.
The Juan Soto Piece
Barely 25-year-old Juan Soto has now been traded twice in the past 16 months. He left Washington as they ripped off their band-aid post a 2019 World Series Championship, and now appears to be a casualty of major cost cutting beginning in San Diego. The Padres moving on from Soto signals a belief that they didn’t have the horsepower or capital to keep him around for the long term. Soto has long been rumored to approach a $500M contract when free agency comes around, and now the Yankees will get a crack at keeping him off of the open market.
While many outlets are projecting that Juan Soto will earn more than $30M in 2024, his final season of arbitration, our math downgrades him slightly to around $27M. Logic says that the Yankees won’t screw around too much here, wanting to immediately start this relationship off on a positive note. Shohei Ohtani’s $30M salary to avoid arbitration with the Angels last year is the number to look at, and New York likely offers him slightly above that to avoid a hearing next spring.
Long Term Extension
Generally, when Scott Boras’ clients get this close to free agency, extension conversations are all but halted. But Soto (and Boras) have to see how nice of a fit this organization, and respective ballpark, should be for the foreseeable future.
Mathematically speaking, Juan Soto projects to a 12 year, $408M contract in our system, or a flat $34M per year. This coincides with our $27M projection for his arbitration 4 salary. If we increase that value to $31M as noted above, an adjusted extension projection would come in at 12 years, $468M, or $39M per year. New teammate Aaron Judge’s $40M per year is the current benchmark for position player AAVs. Soto is 5 ½ years younger than Judge when he took his free agency tour. That alone is worth a few extra million more per year. So again, logic still sees Soto approaching $500M, at somewhere around $41M-$42M per year for 12-13 years in total.
Will that happen immediately? Will the Yankees wanna give it a minute to see exactly what kind of person/player Soto is? Will Soto/Boras still opt to wait the year out, take the free agency tour, and generate a bidding war?
Plenty still to see here.
The Padres Return
The Padres clearly had a mission in mind when they went looking for a trade haul for Soto: Replenish the pitching pool they emptied when they acquired Soto 16 months ago. For the most part, they’ve done an excellent job here, though none of the newly acquired arms currently project to be a top of the rotation starter (yet). Thorpe is the only name of the bunch that won’t begin on the 40-man roster, though he projects to be there by 2025.
RHP Drew Thorpe
2022 2nd Rd (61st); signed for exact slot - $1,187,600
- Yankees #5 prospect; 2023 minor league player of the year
- Projects as a middle of the rotation starter with more upside if he can add velocity; good secondaries + strong command
RHP Michael King
Reliever turned starter (9 GS in 2023)
- Large range of outcomes but likely enters season as SP3 behind Yu Darvish & Joe Musgrove.
- Projects to a $3.1M salary in 2024, his 2nd of 3 arbitration years, 2026 free agent.
RHP Jhony Brito
Middle Reliever with swingman starter potential
- Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2015 for $35,000
- Started 13 games for the Yankees in 2023, his first MLB season.
- Enters 2024 with .113 service time, allowing for 5 more years of team control
RHP Randy Vasquez
Projects to make the Padres 2024 starting rotation for now
- Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2018 for $10,000
- Started 5 games for the Yankees in 2023, his first MLB season
- Enters 2024 with .041 service time, allowing for 5 more years of team control
Should compete for the everyday catching role with Luis Campusano
- Projects to make $2.2M in his final year of arbitration; 2025 UFA
- Replaces Gary Sanchez: Offensive downgrade, Defensive upgrade
In adding Soto & Grisham, the Yankees have brought over an estimated $35M of cash/tax payroll for the 2024 season. They now carry around $280M in tax salary, against a $237M league threshold. Assuming they continue to add a few pieces without any notable subtractions, this is setting up to be a $300M+ franchise for the upcoming season.
The Padres relinquished that $35M of salary from Soto/Grisham, bringing back an estimated $7M for 4 players (King, Brito, Vasquez, Higashioka). Higashioka is the only player here without multi-year control. San Diego now carries a $204M estimated tax payroll with 33 players on their 40-man roster. There’s room to add in small chunks here if the plan is to stay competitive but also stay under the $237M threshold.
MLB Trade Tracker
2024 Free Agency