Insider warns the Yankees on Juan Soto trade, says Bellinger a better choice

John Allen
Wednesday November 29, 2023

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The Yankees are pushing the Padres to consider trading Juan Soto and there are already contacts between two teams. However, “his timing is less than ideal,” claims Jon Heyman of The New York Post, who suggests the Yankees against signing the player.

Juan Soto, at 25, is entering his final year of arbitration and is anticipated to receive a salary ranging from $27 million (according to Spotrac) to $32 million (as per Cot’s Baseball Contracts) in 2024. Looking ahead, he has already rejected a $440 million extension offer from the Washington Nationals before being traded to San Diego in 2022. This has led to speculation that he may command a deal exceeding $500 million in free agency before the 2025 season.

The Yankees are currently committed to four significant contracts beyond the upcoming season. Considering this, Heyman advises the team against committing to another player with a substantial, long-term deal while also relinquishing multiple top-100 prospects.

According to Heyman, although the idea of pairing Juan Soto with Aaron Judge is intriguing, there is an alternative option that could potentially come at less than half the cost and without involving any prospects.

Heyman asks Yankees to prefer Cody Bellinger over Juan Soto

Cody Bellinger is one of the Yankees targets

According to Heyman’s comments via The Post on Tuesday, the preferable choice among free agents is Cody Bellinger. Although Bellinger might not exhibit the same consistency in hitting as Juan Soto (who does?), Heyman highlighted Bellinger’s suitability based on his position, cost, and notably, his long-term availability.

Bellinger, at 28, is three years senior to Juan Soto, but he addresses two essential needs for the Yankees—one for the immediate future and another for the long term. Firstly, he can cover centerfield during Jasson Domínguez’s recovery from Tommy John surgery. Additionally, he is versatile enough to play first base, making him a potential replacement for Anthony Rizzo, who has a club option after the upcoming season, looking ahead to 2025.

Furthermore, Bellinger offers the advantage of being a left-handed hitter, aligning with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s expressed preference during the GM Meetings.

Last season, Bellinger alleviated concerns surrounding his offensive performance. Following his NL MVP win in 2019, he experienced a dip, slashing .203/.272/.376 with an increased strikeout rate (25.0) from 2020 to 2022. However, in 2023, he rebounded to his former level of production, boasting a .307/.356/.525 slash line with a career-low 15.7 strikeout percentage.

This impressive performance earned him MVP votes and a Silver Slugger award, marking his return to accolades for the first time since 2019. Bellinger has demonstrated his ability to thrive in significant markets, beginning his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and securing a World Series victory. Last season, he revitalized his career with the Chicago Cubs.

On the other hand, the same cannot be said for Juan Soto, at least in this aspect.


Juan Soto is too pricy

The mid-market Padres, despite ranking below only the Mets and Yankees in 2023 spending, acknowledge the need to trim payroll following an exceptionally challenging season. With the departure of five impactful to top-tier pitchers, including Cy Young winner Blake Snell and star closer Josh Hader, the Padres face a significant challenge in rebuilding their pitching staff. In light of this, a pragmatic approach aligning with the win-at-all-costs mentality suggests that parting ways with Juan Soto becomes a plausible option.

Juan Soto, entering the final year before free agency, poses slim chances of contract extension within a 72-hour window, especially at terms the Yankees would find reasonable. While his agent, Scott Boras, might be open to extension discussions, it’s likely contingent on the interested team aligning with their market valuation. The past dismissal of a $440 million offer from Juan Soto’s original team indicates that a comparable or higher valuation is necessary. Consequently, he is, for all practical purposes, considered a one-year rental.

Padres star and Yankees target Juan Soto at Petco Park in 2022.
Jose Soto Pacheco

The key consideration is whether surrendering a blend of promising young talents is justified for a short-term acquisition with a hefty anticipated arbitration cost, potentially reaching $32 million. An estimate from a rival GM suggests that acquiring Juan Soto might demand parting with two top-100 prospects or equivalent young players. In the case of the Yankees, this could entail a combination involving Anthony Volpe, Jasson Dominguez, outfielder Spencer Jones, and right-hander Drew Thorpe.

Baseball writer Hector Gomez has linked the Mets and Giants, along with the Yankees, to Juan Soto trade discussions. However, it’s arguable that he may be less fitting for these two teams. While both the Mets and Giants possess substantial financial resources, the Mets are reportedly focusing on their World Series aspirations in 2025. Acquiring a player with only one year left on his contract seems illogical in this context. Additionally, Juan Soto’s potential preference for the East Coast could pose a challenge for a long-term commitment to San Francisco.

Both Cody Bellinger and Juan Soto are prime targets for the New York Yankees in the 2023 offseason.

Projections for Bellinger’s potential contract range up to $220 million, precisely half of what Juan Soto rejected. Moreover, Bellinger addresses the vacant center-field position without requiring the sacrifice of prospects.

Currently, it seems that the Yankees may favor Juan Soto over Bellinger, despite a couple of questions circulating about the latter. These concerns, however, do not appear overly alarming. One issue raised is that Bellinger’s hard-hit rate (31.4 percent, 10th percentile), exit velocity (87.9 percent, 22nd percentile), and barrel percentage (6.1 percent, 27th percentile) ranked in the bottom third, even in a season where he achieved a .306 batting average and a .881 OPS. However, in two-strike situations, Bellinger hit .279 (second-best in baseball) with a .725 OPS (sixth-best in baseball), showcasing adept situational hitting. Notably, Bellinger earned an MVP in Los Angeles and secured a 10th-place finish in MVP voting in the recent season in Chicago, suggesting his adaptability to perform well in New York.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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