AL East rivals seek to capitalize after Yankees’ Juan Soto trade hits snag

Yankees' target Juan Soto during a game in the colors of the Washington Nationals.
Michael Bennington
Saturday December 2, 2023

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As of the afternoon on Friday, sources with knowledge of the discussions revealed that there exists a significant gap between the Yankees and Padres in their ongoing negotiations concerning outfielder Juan Soto. It’s crucial to note that these discussions are not isolated, as the Yankees are contending with competition from other teams vying for the services of the talented left-handed slugger.

According to sources, the Toronto Blue Jays are among the various teams engaged in discussions with the Padres regarding Juan Soto. The 25-year-old Soto could prove to be a perfect addition for the Blue Jays, especially if their pursuit of the premier free agent, Shohei Ohtani, does not materialize. Furthermore, should the Padres opt to delay their decision, other teams that are unsuccessful in securing Ohtani might also express interest in acquiring Juan Soto.

An official from one of the interested clubs has disclosed that the Padres are aiming for a substantial return involving multiple players in exchange for Juan Soto. The desired return includes pitchers who are either ready for the major leagues or in close proximity to it. There is also a possibility that the Padres may consider lower-level prospects if they possess the necessary talent. However, it’s worth noting that Nick Martinez has already departed for the Reds as a free agent, and the impending departures of Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Josh Hader in the open market will create immediate needs for the Padres.

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The Padres have identified specific targets from the Yankees, including Clarke Schmidt, who recorded a 4.64 ERA over 159 innings in the previous season, and Michael King, a potential sell-high candidate due to his impressive 1.88 ERA in eight end-of-season starts, to be part of the Juan Soto trade. While the Yankees currently envision King as a component of their 2024 rotation, his track record also highlights his effectiveness as a reliable multi-inning reliever.

Can the Blue Jays land Juan Soto?

The Padres might consider acquiring a package from the Blue Jays for Juan Soto, consisting of one or more pitchers such as Ricky Tiedemann, Bowden Francis, and Alek Manoah. Similar to other teams, the Blue Jays harbor reservations about committing over $30 million to Soto for a single season, especially considering the potential of losing him to free agency afterward. However, the Blue Jays find themselves in a situation where the imperative to succeed puts them under considerable pressure.

According to a source, the Padres have suggested including Trent Grisham in their discussions with the Yankees regarding Juan Soto. This proposed deal presents an opportunity for the Yankees to fulfill their requirements in both center field and left field. However, it’s worth noting that Grisham, anticipated to earn almost $5 million through arbitration, struggled in the previous season, batting just .198 with a .666 OPS.

Padres' outfielder Juan Soto is a trade target for the Yankees.
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If the Padres find it challenging to reach a mutually agreeable deal with a single trading partner, an alternative option could involve bringing in a third club. For instance, the Mariners possess appealing pitching assets but might be reluctant to trade them for just one year of Juan Soto. Given the Padres’ history of engaging in trades with the Mariners, this scenario could entail the Mariners acquiring offensive assets with longer-term potential from the team acquiring Juan Soto, while simultaneously sending pitching resources to San Diego.

Following Ohtani, Juan Soto stands out as one of the premier hitters accessible through trade or free agency. Nevertheless, any team securing his services will encounter significant challenges in securing a contract extension. Juan Soto declined a substantial 15-year, $440 million offer from the Nationals, leading to his trade to the Padres during the 2022 deadline. His agent, Scott Boras, advocates for his clients to ascertain their values through open bidding processes.

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