“If George were alive…” is the most tired four-word phrase in modern parlance, but if George were alive, the New York Yankees certainly would’ve traded a few young MLB players with major question marks attached, a few top prospects to sweeten the pot, and a wasted Eric Hosmer contract for Juan Soto and Josh Bell.
Then he would’ve hired a few gamblers to trail Aaron Judge around town, who he’d surely have called “Mr. May”. But we digress.
Soto is the type of player who doesn’t hit the trade market every year, decade, or half-century. He’s a 23-year-old future Ted Williams and current Ted Williams, and ostensibly was someone the Yankees could’ve still chased this offseason using Anthony Volpe, Jasson Dominguez, Oswald Peraza, and Gleyber Torres.
If he’d lasted in Washington all the way until the offseason, that is.
Alas, we’ll never get to learn whether or not those rumors about the Nationals being “eh” on Volpe as the leader of a package were true. Instead, San Diego did the impossible and managed to pull off a Soto deal on Tuesday morning, while also acquiring All-Star-level bat Josh Bell.
What’d they give up? Oh, just young lefty MacKenzie Gore and his sore elbow, scuffling top prospect C.J. Abrams, big names Robert Hassell III and James Wood, righty Jarlin Susana, and … Eric Hosmer’s contract, which lasts through 2025.
Now, the Padres have pulled the Yankees away from Manny Machado, outbid them for Soto and Bell, and fleeced Chicago for a young Fernando Tatis Jr as the coup de grace. Say what you will about AJ Preller’s club, but nobody goes for it the way he does … the way the Yankees used to.
Yankees could’ve traded for Juan Soto and sent … Josh Donaldson to Washington?!
The Yankees are having a very solid deadline. Frankie Montas is a fantastic second choice behind Luis Castillo. Andrew Benintendi fills a genuine need. Scott Effross is an excellent bullpen snipe. But none of them are Soto, who oozes star power and is the latest feather in San Diego’s overfilled cap.
For several months now, the Dodgers, Mets and Padres have been the big-name collectors, while the Yankees and Red Sox have preferred to play like the Rays, emphasizing coaching staff advances and trying to find diamonds in the rough while the National League gets fat.
Is chasing the biggest names the only team-building strategy? Of course not. Once upon a time, it led to the mish-mash mid-2000s Yankees, who dominated the regular season and couldn’t distill the necessary energy by the time the postseason rolled around. But the Yankees are still the New York Yankees. They had the prospect capital necessary to add a future Hall of Famer — and could’ve coerced the Nats to take on, say, Josh Donaldson’s contract (as long as Hosmer waives his no-trade) — and just … didn’t.
Soto is generational insurance for Judge. Machado would’ve been an elite third baseman in the Bronx for years to come. Max Scherzer could’ve redefined this team’s ceiling. Freddie Freeman has been Freddie Freeman every single day he’s put on a Dodgers uniform.
The Yankees are using Domingo German as their first line of defense and rolling with Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Build a team however you’d like. This is what they’ve chosen.