Calculating the cost: Will Soto’s salary affect the Yankees’ pursuit of other offseason targets?

Juan Soto
Esteban Quiñones
Thursday November 30, 2023

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As the hot stove season heats up in Major League Baseball, the spotlight is on San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto, a player whose talents have ignited fervent discussions about his potential impact on the New York Yankees. The question looming over the Yankees and other interested teams is not just about Soto’s skill on the field but the value he brings for a limited duration.

Soto, hailed for his generational hitting skills and prowess in the outfield, has become a beacon of desire for the Yankees and their fanbase. However, the challenge lies in his contractual situation, which has led to debates within the baseball community regarding the wisdom of pursuing a one-season rental.

The calculated gamble

Baseball Trade Values, a notable website in assessing player worth, indicates that one year of Soto is approximately equivalent to the next four years of pitcher Clarke Schmidt. This valuation emphasizes the dilemma faced by teams, where several years of good and cost-controlled talent may outweigh the allure of a single season with a superstar, even one as impactful as Soto.

Teams often acquire stars with an eye on exclusive negotiating windows, an advantage that may not be applicable in Soto’s case. Represented by super-agent Scott Boras, Soto’s inclination towards free agency to maximize contracts could limit the benefit of securing an exclusive negotiating period. This leaves teams contemplating the prospect of bringing in Soto for just one guaranteed year, potentially requiring a significant overpay in terms of prospects.

Reports suggest that a trade for Soto could demand two top-100 prospects or comparable young players. The price tag for acquiring the slugger may include sacrificing promising talents like Clarke Schmidt, top pitching prospect Chase Hampton, and Randy Vásquez. While Baseball Trade Values’ model indicates this could be an overpay, the realities of the market suggest teams might have to go above and beyond to secure Soto’s services.

The scarcity of impact position players in free agency further amplifies Soto’s appeal. Teams seeking a game-changing bat face limited alternatives, making Soto an attractive option despite the potential short-term nature of his stay. The financial considerations, with Soto set to earn around $33 million in his final year of arbitration, add another layer to the complex evaluation of his true value.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget constraints, aiming to stay within the $300 million threshold for the team’s payroll, introduce an additional factor. While Soto’s salary might be a bargain, its impact on other offseason pursuits, such as Cody Bellinger and Japanese righty Yoshinobu Yamamoto, needs careful consideration.

Beyond the financial calculus, the intangible value Soto brings to the Yankees is a key aspect of the discussion. Seen as a potential difference-maker, the 25-year-old slugger, often compared to legends like Ted Williams, could be the missing piece for a championship-caliber lineup. However, the risks associated with a blockbuster trade are undeniable, with the outcome contingent on various factors, including the team’s success in the 2024 season.

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman faces a pivotal decision, weighing the short-term gain of acquiring Soto against the potential long-term consequences. If the Yankees fail to secure a World Series victory in 2024, the aftermath of losing Soto and witnessing prospects flourish elsewhere could intensify the scrutiny on Cashman.

In the end, the pursuit of Juan Soto represents a calculated gamble for the Yankees, with the potential for both immediate success and future uncertainty hanging in the balance. As the offseason unfolds, the baseball world watches closely to see if the Yankees will make the move that could reshape their fortunes and define the legacy of the 2024 season.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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