Everyone’s twisting themselves into a pretzel trying to determine if it’s worthwhile for the New York Yankees to empty the farm system (and part with a couple of major league players) to acquire Washington Nationals star Juan Soto via trade. The slugger is expected to be moved before Aug. 2.
But is it really that difficult? Do we have to rack our brain and dig up every scenario as we hastily rip through the pros and cons before someone else scoops Soto up? Because, in this particular scenario for the Yankees, they can probably have it all.
The one “issue” here is the presence of Aaron Judge (who primarily plays right field) and his contract situation (he’s a free agent after this year). It’s been discussed that importing Soto might play a role in souring the team’s relationship with Judge, since Soto is significantly younger and will eventually command a contract likely double (or close to it) whatever Judge earns in the offseason.
But the Yankees don’t have to pay Soto once he becomes a free agent after the 2024 season — or, at the very least, they can wait it out until then and see what makes sense. For example, they can rid themselves of some costly contracts (DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Hicks) or might have enough f— you money to pay everyone if they win a World Series or two.
Either way, the game plan should be straightforward and simple: surrender whatever it takes to acquire Soto, re-sign Judge, and see what happens in 2022, 2023 and 2024 with guys like Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Clay Holmes still on the roster during that time.
There’s a world where the Yankees can keep Aaron Judge and trade for Juan Soto
Let’s look at a scenario where Judge re-signs for that $36 million AAV he was reportedly seeking. The Yankees’ payroll would look like this:
- Aaron Judge: $36 million per year from 2023-?
- Gerrit Cole: $36 million per year from 2023-2028
- Giancarlo Stanton: $26 million per year from 2023-2027
- DJ LeMahieu: $15 million per year from 2023-2026
- Aaron Hicks: $10.45 million per year from 2023-2025
Those would be all the contracts guaranteed to be on the books after 2023. Everyone else is either a free agent or eligible for arbitration. That would mean the team is carrying a $123.45 million payroll as a base from 2023-2025.
Throw Soto into the mix and he’s another $20+ million per year salary in 2023 and 2024. Bring that to $150 million for the sake of rounding purposes. For 2023, tack on Josh Donaldson’s $21.75 million salary — $172 million. As for those who would stay, Torres, Holmes, Jordan Montgomery, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Wandy Peralta would be due for solid raises. Others like Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King, Nestor Cortes and Lucas Luetge would be drops in the bucket. But factoring in all of those players takes the Yankees close to $200 million in both 2023 and 2024.
All it would take is a payroll push in the short term, because the Yankees will need to address the starting rotation (Jameson Taillon gone after this year and Montgomery/Severino gone after next year), bullpen (still need more pieces), first base (will Anthony Rizzo return or be extended?), shortstop (IKF is a free agent after 2023 and the Yankees would likely have to trade Anthony Volpe to Washington, so maybe Oswald Peraza?), and third base (Donaldson is more than likely gone after 2023; he has a $16 million team option for 2024, but it’s doubtful the Yankees pick it up).
Long story short? Go for it over the next three seasons, keep your franchise player, and get creative financially with a few other areas of the roster. It won’t be easy, but it’s very possible. Brian Cashman knows how to find undervalued/under-the-radar talent and could fill multiple spots with those kinds of candidates while Judge, Soto, Stanton, LeMahieu, Torres (assuming he’s not traded), and Jose Trevino make up a majority of the lineup for the next few years.
This isn’t exactly the Yankees’ style, but it’s certainly attainable if they’re willing to take the plunge.