All this time New York Yankees fans have been saying "Juan Soto or Cody Bellinger"? Why that energy? Why hasn't there been enough "Juan Soto and Cody Bellinger"? It's not like the Yankees can't make it happen. They can do anything if they utilize their unique advantages over the rest of the league.
Much of that "or" chatter was likely a result of a few potential dilemmas. The first is the presence of Jasson Dominguez. The top prospect, who looks like the most MLB-ready Yankees prospect since Aaron Judge, underwent Tommy John surgery in September and is expected back for the second half of 2024.
He's very clearly a franchise cornerstone that the Yankees won't be overlooking simply because he'll miss the first three months of next season. He's 20 years old and everything they've needed in terms of approach, athleticism and energy since 2020. Though he could headline a massive offseason blockbuster deal, many would rather see the Yankees use their spending power and make smaller trades.
The second is the prospect of signing Soto long term. Why would the Yankees trade for Soto and clog their payroll with Bellinger? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of trading for Soto in hopes of signing him to a 12-year contract?
Do the Yankees really think they can go all the way in 2024 if they were to do this, and risk Soto walking next offseason if they add Bellinger and someone like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, which would put them in a precarious financial situation (based on their standards)? Because it seems like that's what they might be signaling if they managed to pull off this many high-profile moves.
How realistic is Yankees' acquiring Juan Soto and Cody Bellinger after recent report?
Or, hear us out ... they could also just ... sign Bellinger, keep Dominguez, trade for and then sign Soto, then move Bellinger to first base after Anthony Rizzo becomes a free agent. No? Clogging the payroll be damned! They would have an all-world outfield for at least another three or four full seasons (pending Aaron Judge's eventual dropoff/DH pivot) and a young, athletic first baseman that can also fill outfield needs if necessary.
Why not think about that more seriously after Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Yankees "would love to have Bellinger and Soto"?
"The Yankees and San Francisco Giants are widely viewed as the co-favorites now to sign free-agent center fielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger. The Yankees would love to have Bellinger and Juan Soto roaming their outfield, while the Giants would also like to also have free-agent Matt Chapman playing third base for them."- Bob Nightengale, USA Today
Payroll wise, let's do a quick dive. Yamamoto gets a $30 million AAV. Bellinger gets $25 million. Soto gets $37 million. Judge is making $40 million. Gerrt Cole is making $36 million. Carlos Rodón is making $27.83 million. Stanton is making $24.5 million. DJ LeMahieu is making $15 million. Right there, that's a ~$236 million payroll with just those guys come 2025.
Maybe by then Stanton and LeMahieu are out of the picture to save money? Can't imagine the Yankees would be able to offload the entirety of their contracts, but with enough infield and pitching help in the upper levels of the minor leagues, they might be able to absord a smaller financial hit for the greater good.
That also likely means passing on every big name in next year's free agent class, which suggests this assortment of players has to work as the Yankees' next World Series-winning group. No pressure.
There is a realistic path, but it's a narrow one. And there are no guarantees. Soto re-signing after the Yankees give up a haul of prospects to get him is far from a foregone conclusion, especially with Scott Boras as his agent. Bellinger might not be willing to make a full-time switch to first base. Dominguez, as promising as he looked, still has developing to do. We know how that game goes in New York.
If the Yankees would love to have both Soto and Belli, then they just need to either be sure of an epic 2024 run or a future that involves three of the most influential names (including Yamamoto) in the sport, alongside two of the other most influential names in the sport.