if Aaron Judge speaking candidly at the conclusion of the New York Yankees disappointing 2023 season didn't suggest changes are on the way for 2024, then almost nothing will. And by "changes," we don't mean merely replacing departing players -- we mean completely revamping whatever this roster thinks it's designed to accomplish.
Many folks have suggested that will have to come in the form of a blockbuster trade, since this year's upcoming free agent class isn't all that appealing. The Yankees need starting pitching, which will be available, but the more urgent deficiency that needs to be addressed is the team's hitting.
They need a contact bat (the Yankees finished 29th in MLB in batting average), and one that's preferably left-handed. There are only two other teams out there that had more high-profile disaster campaigns than the Yankees, one of which was the San Diego Padres.
They're likely going back to the drawing board in a sense, too, and many have speculated superstar slugger Juan Soto could be on the trade block because he'll be owed close to $30 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility. If the Padres can't sign him long term or if he's not interested in negotiating a contract extension, they might as well get something in return for the generational talent.
The Yankees have been the top name linked to any potential Soto trade, and while that's encouraging, it's setting up fans to get overly invested from an emotional standpoint, only to be crushed when Brian Cashman probably won't bend to the Padres' expected high asking price.
Growing Juan Soto trade buzz puts Yankees fans in bad spot with emotional investment
Here's what Jon Heyman of the New York Post wrote in a recent column that mentions Soto's future with the Pads:
"Not sure selling is in San Diego’s DNA, but in case, the Yankees, who badly need left-handed hitters, make sense. (And no one should ever rule out Steve Cohen, of course.)- Jon Heyman
One exec suggests: It should be patterned after the Mookie Betts deal, a superstar with a year to go (though hopefully would turn out fairer)."
HA! Do you think Preller, if he keeps his job, or any new GM/president of baseball ops, will settle for the scrap heap of a return the Red Sox got from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts deal? Expect this one to be much more costly, and certainly larger than a 3-for-1 ... unless the Yankees want to help out the Padres and eat some less desirable contracts (they won't want to do that, though).
The pairing is easy to make. Every pundit and insider is suggesting it. Derek Jeter even pushed for it during All-Star weekend. Soto represents yet another talent the Yankees can't afford to miss out on.
But if they do (which is likely), it'll deliver yet another demoralizing blow to a fanbase that just wants this organization to put a stop to its embarrassing habits. How many more times can the Yankees -- the most powerful team in the sport -- watch other, less equipped peers keep pulling off the moves they're supposed to?