The New York Yankees were gouged at the tail end of last week by the San Diego Padres' front office, leading to an impasse in Juan Soto trade talks between the two sides. When Padres GM AJ Preller settled on a leaked (reported) ask of seven pitchers, including Michael King and Drew Thorpe, for Soto and Trent Grisham, the Yankees called his bluff, begging him to find a suitor who could provide anything close to New York's pitching depth.
And, in a flash, the Toronto Blue Jays emerged. Jon Heyman touted their possible inclusion of Alek Manoah, a Luis Severino-level pitcher in 2023. Top pitching prospect Ricky Tiedemann was floated, and although he's tantalizing, he battled injuries and struggled through Double-A in 2023, hardly fitting San Diego's reported vision of "big-league ready" pitching. It didn't feel like a fit, even as reporter Hector Gómez called the Jays the "favorites" Saturday afternoon.
Late Sunday at the Winter Meetings, Blue Jays team insider Shi Davidi addressed the rapidly swirling rumors that Toronto was pursuing Soto heavily, and also dipping their toes in Shohei Ohtani's $600 million waters.
In short, Davidi claimed the Jays have been unwilling to meet San Diego's exorbitant price, too, and aren't highly involved.
Yankees Juan Soto trade rumors: Mariners in, Blue Jays out?
Even if Toronto tried, they don't possess the level of talent and depth New York does. If San Diego took a Blue Jays package over a Yankees offering, that would mean either Brian Cashman stayed extremely reticent and refused to give up any top names (possible), or a lesser deal was struck out of spite (also possible). But, pound for pound, Toronto can't come close to the Yankees' theoretical pitcher group.
Unfortunately, just as one intimidating door appeared to close, another lurker swung open, as the Seattle Mariners cleared $20 million in salary Sunday night. Jerry Dipoto, the only GM crazy enough to pull off a seven-for-two Soto package, attached Jarred Kelenic to Marco Gonzales and Evan White, sending salary to Atlanta in a nonsensical swap that would only feel fruitful if it came with an addition as big as the Padres' megastar. MLB insider Jon Heyman immediately speculated on the connection, though he quickly walked it back with an alternative (and Jon Morosi, arriving to the party with ice and no drinks, randomly threw Max Kepler into the pool).
Yankees fans need to be rooting for the Rays like never before -- in this particular instance, it would really behoove them if Tampa Bay and the Mariners could get a blockbuster across the finish line before any Soto talks commence.
The good news? Even as more potential suitors clear the deck and longshots get floated, the Yankees still reportedly enter the Winter Meetings as the favorites to get a deal done. The Athletic's Brendan Kuty wrote late Sunday night that the two sides will reengage in person this week, and MLB's Mark Feinsand laid out their favored status early Monday:
"The Friars are expected to move Juan Soto this winter, possibly as early as this week. Despite reports that the Yankees and Padres remain far apart in their talks, New York is still considered a solid favorite to acquire the two-time All-Star, whose left-handed bat would be the perfect tonic for the Yanks’ lineup."- Mark Feinsand
As long as the Padres' ask becomes slightly more reasonable -- and only slightly, this is Juan Soto after all -- the Yankees would be foolish not to finish here.