Yankees’ Cashman is beating around the bush over Soto, Bellinger

Sara Molnick
Wednesday December 6, 2023

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NASHVILLE — When questioned about Juan Soto during a media briefing in Nashville on Tuesday, Yankees GM Brian Cashman expressed admiration for the prodigy. His statement only touched the tip of the iceberg concerning what the Yankees truly think of the 25-year-old—a sentiment echoed in a similarly effusive manner by manager Aaron Boone during his own press conference earlier in the afternoon.

Cashman remarked that he considered him to be a transformational bat, emphasizing that he viewed Juan Soto as one of the premier hitters in the game with significant impact, concluding with a definitive “period.”

With his foot casually propped up against the back wall of the media workroom at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, Cashman maintained a calm and composed demeanor during his discussion with reporters. Despite his relaxed appearance, it doesn’t reflect the underlying pressure the Yankees are experiencing to enhance their roster following the disappointing 2023 season, which Cashman previously labeled a “disaster” earlier in the summer.

Cashman expresses optimism but stays short of giving details

The general manager of the Yankees seemed to be restricted in providing extensive commentary on Juan Soto. While there is speculation that the Padres outfielder, a baseball superstar, could be a potential trade target actively sought by the Yankees during the Winter Meetings, it’s crucial to note that it is still far from being confirmed.

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Cashman expressed optimism about the team’s potential, stating that he believed they had an opportunity to become a highly competitive team through strategic player acquisitions. He emphasized the goal of making impactful additions that would contribute positively, while also relying on the existing players who are known to be talented. Cashman highlighted the expectation for players to either bounce back or regain their health. He expressed hope that these various factors would come together, resulting in a team that fans could take pride in watching on a daily basis.

The competition for Juan Soto holds significant importance for the Yankees due to the potential gains involved. The chance to secure a player of his caliber is a rare occurrence. While the organization is actively exploring alternative methods to enhance their lineup, Juan Soto stands out in a league of his own.

Cashman clarified that making the decision to trade valuable young players and prospects for a one-year rental like Juan Soto is a challenging choice, but it’s one that requires careful consideration. In his words, he emphasized the principle that sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to acquire valuable assets.

He mentioned that the decision depends on the team’s current position and the significance of addressing specific areas of need. According to Cashman, one must carefully evaluate these factors to eventually make a decision when the team’s requirements align.

Yankees need Juan Soto

The Padres outfielder represents the most promising opportunity for the Yankees to make substantial enhancements to their lineup. As the premier left-handed outfielder currently available or potentially entering the market, he fulfills a priority for Cashman and the Yankees in their winter plans.

While obtaining Juan Soto may address some of the Yankees’ concerns, it doesn’t serve as a comprehensive solution to their problems. In addition to securing him, they would still require another outfielder and additional batting strength to make a noticeable impact offensively. In the event that the Yankees are unable to secure Juan Soto from San Diego, it implies that they would need to further explore the trade and free-agent market to reinforce and fortify their lineup.

According to reports, the Yankees have engaged with Cody Bellinger, a notable option on their radar. As the premier outfielder available in free agency, Bellinger, a left-handed hitter, is emerging from a rejuvenated season with the Cubs and boasts familial connections to the Yankees.

While Bellinger appears to be a suitable match, there are notable concerns regarding his performance in 2023, casting a shadow over his impressive statistical record. Despite achieving a .307 batting average and hitting 26 home runs with an .881 OPS this year, his quality of contact metrics reached the lowest point in his career.

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

Cashman on Yankees interest in Bellinger

When the drawbacks of Bellinger’s resurgence in the season were raised with Cashman on Tuesday, the general manager displayed a lack of significant concern. Cashman commented that Bellinger had an impressive season and positioned himself favorably. He mentioned that if he were entering free agency, he would aspire to have a season comparable to Bellinger’s recent performance. It was stated as a straightforward observation.

Bellinger presents a viable, extended-term solution for the Yankees given his ability to handle both outfield and first base positions. In the scenario where Jasson Domínguez reclaims his center field position upon recovering from Tommy John surgery next summer, there exists the potential for Bellinger to shift to first base in the future. This possibility is particularly relevant if 2024 marks Anthony Rizzo‘s final year with the Yankees.

There is a substantial long-term risk associated with Bellinger, considering his performance before the 2023 season. His Most Valuable Player campaign with the Dodgers in 2019 now feels like a distant memory, given that he recorded a .203 batting average with a .648 OPS over the subsequent three seasons. It was these numbers that ultimately led to the Dodgers deciding not to tender a contract to the outfielder after the 2022 season.

Cashman and the Yankees face the crucial decision of determining whether the substantial cost associated with acquiring Bellinger is justifiable given the inherent risk. According to reports by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Bellinger is seeking a contract exceeding $250 million. Brendan Kuty of The Athletic further emphasized this week that Bellinger’s asking price has been set at a level that is considered prohibitively high.

Cashman stated that if he were in Cody Bellinger’s position, he would feel that he had completed all the necessary steps to set his agent, Scott Boras, up for success in the free-agent market, benefiting both Boras and his family. He remarked that there wasn’t much more to add, as Bellinger had fulfilled all the essential requirements.

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