The New York Yankees are borderline required by law to be connected to Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals, whether he represents the filling of a massive need or not. After all, it’s hard to even fathom that a player of Soto’s caliber is on the market, let alone that the Nationals are intrigued by the Yankees’ overtures.
Rarely throughout history has the Yankees’ farm system been strong enough to be considered in a six-prospect package for a 23-year-old superstar. In Aaron Judge’s walk year, though, New York does have the young chips to pull off an NBA-style overpay trade for 2.5 years of a potential generational talent.
That doesn’t mean putting a Home Run Derby champion in Joey Gallo’s place while maxing out the Big Boy Outfield is the Yankees’ top priority, though. It’s certainly the most life-altering pathway Brian Cashman can pursue at this year’s deadline, but the 2022 Yankees are an obvious contender with a few patch-able holes.
Are they better off selling the entire farm for Soto, or hoping that acquiring a smaller-name outfielder and emphasizing Matt Carpenter in the second half will allow them to thrive after cashing in their true trade chips for pitching (and keeping Volpe)?
As if Chad Green’s Tommy John surgery wasn’t enough of a blow to the staff, the team lost Michael King for the season over the weekend, too, and will be sitting on Luis Severino’s “low-grade” lat strain for as long as it takes to heal. Bullpen and a true No. 2 in the rotation are more pressing needs for the Yankees at the moment, even though a Soto move would be seismic. Some rival evaluators, according to Bob Klapisch, definitely see the reasoning behind pivoting.
Yankees should trade for No. 2 starter, not Juan Soto
PROS FOR JUAN SOTO: He’s … a stunning player. The kind of guy who’d instantly make you forget about what you surrendered. He also pummeled the Astros in the 2019 World Series, for whatever that’s worth (.333/.438/.741 with a trio of homers).
CONS FOR JUAN SOTO: He’ll cost everybody. Hindsight is 20/20, but if the Yankees’ don’t win the World Series after surrendering seven talented names for Soto (very possible!), it’ll be seen as an all-time failure, especially with Aaron Judge’s contract payment due.
Can the 2022 Yankees win the World Series with David Peralta in Soto’s (Gallo’s) place, as long as they supplement their rotation with a big name like Castillo? That’s the question, and it’s where these skittish evaluators are coming from.
To be perfectly fair, none of these baseball lifers want to see the Yankees go Full Monstars. They’re content watching the St. Louis Cardinals emerge as the Soto front-runner because that’s a more comfortable outcome for those worried about the Bronx Bombers.
No matter what your angle is, though, it’s clear Cole’s rotation mates — and even Cole himself — need a second-half boost to carry Matt Blake’s teachings through the finish line. Nestor Cortes shut down a solid Orioles offense in his most recent outing, a game that came with 10 days of rest and All-Star festivities baked in. Nasty Nestor can be valuable, but his innings limits are looming. Jordan Montgomery is rock solid. Jameson Taillon has cratered. Severino is gone.
Whether Cole needs a No. 2 safety net for his psyche or not, the Yankees certainly need one more top-end rotation talent to threaten anyone in their playoff path. That said … the Yankees hit historically poorly against the Astros in their seven matchups this season, totaling the second-worst batting average against an opponent in a single season in baseball history.
The rotation needs reinforcements. There can be no doubt about that.
But minimizing New York’s need for a bat might eventually sound very foolish if they don’t make any sweeping changes before the next Houston clash. Soto will be costly, but he also might be the only improvement strong enough to turn that history-making tide.