Yankees’ Juan Soto trade an all-time blunder if no long term deal

Yankees slugger Juan Soto at a promotional ceremony in March 2023 before his trade to the Bronx.
Inna Zeyger
Monday February 19, 2024

Table of Contents

The New York Yankees’ blockbuster trade for Juan Soto at the Winter Meetings has sent shockwaves through the baseball world, and not everyone is convinced it was a home run. A seasoned MLB scout, keeping a close eye on the Yankees, shared his cautious observations with NJ.com about the deal that brought Juan Soto and fellow outfielder Trent Grisham to the Bronx.

While acknowledging the undeniable talent of Juan Soto, a perennial All-Star and potential Hall of Famer, and the value added by Grisham’s defensive prowess, the scout expressed concerns about the price tag. The Yankees gave up a significant package of young pitching prospects, including Drew Thorpe, a highly-touted arm.

The crux of the issue lies in Juan Soto’s contract situation. He’s just one year away from free agency, likely commanding a record-breaking deal that could exceed $500 million. With such a hefty potential price tag, the scout wonders if the Yankees might have overpaid, surrendering valuable assets without a guarantee of long-term commitment from Soto.

In exchange for acquiring Juan Soto and Grisham, the Yankees traded away three pitchers who had rotation stints in the previous season: Michael King, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vasquez. Additionally, they parted with Drew Thorpe, a promising right-handed pitcher ranked among MLB’s top 100 prospects by MLB Pipeline. The veteran catcher Kyle Higashioka was also included in the trade.

Juan Soto likely to explore free agency

Reports suggest, corroborated by the scout’s information, that the Yankees are unlikely to offer Juan Soto a contract surpassing the franchise-record $360 million deal awarded to Aaron Judge in December 2022 when he entered free agency.

Juan-Soto-new-york-yankees
MLB

The scout remarked that if the Yankees don’t intend to re-sign Juan Soto, then the trade would be considered a squander unless they secure a World Series victory this year. He outlined the talents of the pitchers traded, emphasizing their potential as starters. Additionally, he noted that the Yankees surrendered significant assets, including four starters and a backup catcher, in exchange for Juan Soto, who will enter free agency the following winter with Scott Boras representing him.

The scout expressed curiosity about the discussions that took place during the Yankees’ trade meeting. They wondered if anyone inquired whether there was confidence in Juan Soto remaining with the team for more than a year. Pointing out Juan Soto’s rejection of a $440 million offer from Washington and subsequent moves to San Diego and now the Yankees, the scout speculated that his tenure with the Yankees might be limited to just one year.

During his tenure with the Padres, Juan Soto maintained a .275 batting average across 568 at-bats. He scored 97 runs, tallied 156 hits, including 32 doubles and 1 triple, and launched an impressive 35 home runs. Additionally, he contributed 109 RBIs, successfully stole 12 bases while being caught 5 times, and showcased excellent plate discipline with 132 walks compared to 129 strikeouts, resulting in a stellar .930 OPS across 162 games.

Over the span of his six-year career with the Nationals (2018-2022) and the Padres (2022-2023), Juan Soto has accumulated a batting average of .284, compiling 527 runs, 768 hits, 148 doubles, 11 triples, and 160 home runs. He has also recorded 483 RBIs, swiped 50 bases while being caught 19 times, and exhibited remarkable patience at the plate with 640 walks and 577 strikeouts, translating to an impressive .946 OPS across 779 games played.

Expressing admiration for Juan Soto’s abilities, the scout anticipates a potentially exceptional season ahead for him, especially considering he is in a contract year. There’s a suggestion of optimism for his performance at Yankee Stadium, implying the potential for significant home run production and a high walk rate. Despite the admiration, the scout notes the considerable cost the Yankees paid for what may amount to just one year of Juan Soto’s services, emphasizing the pressure on the team to succeed in the upcoming season.

Yankees buildup neither great nor bad: A take on key acquisitions

The sting of an 82-80 season without playoffs still lingers for the New York Yankees, prompting a significant roster overhaul under GM Brian Cashman. The latest addition, reliever McKinley Moore claimed off waivers from the Phillies, brings the total number of new faces on the 40-man roster to 12. Including the re-signing of free agent pitcher Luke Weaver, initially acquired via waivers last September, the tally climbs to 13. But the question remains: has Cashman’s roster revolution yielded the desired results?

The answer, according to a seasoned MLB scout closely monitoring the Yankees, is a cautious “not bad, not great.” While acknowledging the influx of fresh talent, the scout expresses reservations about the overall impact.

Yankees' Anthony Volpe and Alex Verdugo at Tampa facility on Ja 13, 2024.
Charles Wenzelberg/NYP

The scout’s evaluation of Alex Verdugo underscores his proficiency in making contact with the ball and his defensive capabilities. However, there are concerns about his consistency and attitude, as he has reportedly clashed with teammates and management in the past. With Verdugo entering his contract year, the scout suggests that his behavior and performance this season will significantly impact his future prospects in free agency.

The scout also speculates on the possibility of the Yankees trading Verdugo once Jasson Dominguez, another promising outfielder, returns. This move could provide Dominguez with more playing time while potentially addressing any surplus in the outfield roster.

According to the scout’s assessment, Trent Grisham possesses strong defensive skills, particularly in center field, making him a valuable asset as a fourth outfielder for the Yankees. However, there are concerns about his offensive performance, with expectations of a lower batting average and a tendency to strike out frequently.

Trent-Grisham-new-york-yankees
Fb-San Diego Padres

Although second baseman Jorbit Vivas is yet to make his MLB debut, the scout notes his notable strengths, emphasizing his impressive bat-to-ball skills and minimal strikeout rate. While he may lack significant power, Vivas compensates with his ability to consistently make contact and drive the ball to all parts of the field, often resulting in doubles. Defensively, he has shown improvement at second base each season, rating from solid to average. However, his limited versatility as a strictly second baseman may pose challenges for his future role on the team, as he lacks the arm strength required for positions like third base or shortstop.

jorbit-vivas-new-york-yankees
nbcsports

Having previously played for the Marlins in the MLB, Jordan Groshans accrued a .262 batting average over 61 at-bats, registering 9 runs, 16 hits, 1 home run, and 2 RBIs across 17 games during the 2022 season.

The scout reflects on Groshans’ promising start as a highly sought-after prospect out of high school, selected by the Blue Jays in the 2018 draft. Initially projected to become a power hitter with 25 to 30 home runs, Groshans’ performance fell short of expectations in terms of power hitting, prompting his trade to the Yankees.

Yankees acquire young infielder Groshans from Marlins on waivers
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The scout’s assessment of Marcus Stroman acknowledges his talent and intelligence on the mound, noting his desire to succeed. While Stroman is seen as a suitable addition to the Yankees’ roster, the scout raises concerns about how Stroman will handle the pressure of performing in New York, particularly during challenging periods. Stroman’s tendency to speak his mind is viewed as a potential issue, suggesting that he may need to exercise restraint in his interactions with the demanding New York media and fanbase.

Marcus Stroman, using a cap of the New York Yankees
CBS

The scout’s evaluation of Caleb Ferguson highlights his potential as a power arm from the left side but notes the importance of consistency. Ferguson’s repertoire consists mainly of a fastball/slider combination, which can be dominant when he’s in form. However, his performance can be inconsistent at times, leading to difficulties in getting outs. While Ferguson’s acquisition presents an opportunity to fill the void left by Wandy Peralta as the primary left-handed option in the bullpen, it remains to be seen if he can consistently outperform Peralta, who possesses a highly effective changeup and can reach high velocities with his fastball when needed.

Caleb Ferguson, player of the Dodgers
Kelvin Kuo / USA TODAY Sports

The scout believes Victor Gonzalez has the potential to become a valuable asset in the bullpen. Gonzalez possesses a strong arm capable of throwing in the low-to-mid-90s and features a sweeping breaking ball that can be effective, particularly against left-handed hitters. If the Yankees can help Gonzalez regain his form, he could significantly contribute to bolstering their bullpen depth, as he played a crucial role out of the Dodgers’ bullpen during their 2020 World Series victory.

victor-gonzalez-new-york-yankees
X-@TUDNMEX

The scout’s assessment of Andrews characterizes him as more of a journeyman Triple-A pitcher. Despite his small stature, Clayton Andrews possesses a lively arm capable of reaching speeds of up to 95 mph. He employs a repertoire that includes a slider and a changeup, with the latter being his more effective pitch. However, due to his height and three-quarter arm slot, Andrews must consistently maintain his mechanics to avoid leaving pitches up in the zone, where they become vulnerable to hard contact. The scout notes that if Andrews fails to locate his pitches effectively, particularly against right-handed hitters, he could be prone to giving up hits.

clayton-andrews-new-york-yankees
ESPN

According to the scout’s evaluation, the trade for Cody Morris was a move by the Yankees to replenish some of their pitching depth, which has been depleted in recent years, particularly due to trades like the one involving Soto. By acquiring Morris, who possesses options, the Yankees can afford to assign him to Triple-A and utilize him as depth in case of injuries to their bullpen. The trade was likely motivated by the Yankees’ need to secure value for Florial, who is out of options, ensuring they have flexibility with their roster moving forward.

cody-morris-new-york-yankees
si.com

As per the scout’s assessment, Cody Poteet is recognized for his pitchability and ability to consistently throw strikes. Having observed him extensively during his high school and college days at UCLA, it was anticipated that he would eventually reach the major leagues. However, his profile suggests that he is primarily utilized as organizational depth due to his modest velocity on pitches.

the yankees signed cody poteet
AP

Across his MLB career spanning two seasons with the Marlins (2021-2022), Poteet has accumulated a 2-4 record with a 4.45 ERA in 19 games, including 9 starts. Over 58.2 innings pitched, he has allowed 48 hits and 29 earned runs, including 11 home runs, while issuing 27 walks and striking out 53 batters.

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