Jeff Passan all but eliminates Yankees' competitors in Juan Soto chase

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The Padres have financial issues. The Padres might be forced to trade Juan Soto, but don't want to. The Yankees have a gaping, left-handed superstar-sized hole and have for years. Even with just one year to go before Soto's force-fed free agency, the fit is almost too perfect to even get excited about, because that means it can't possibly happen.

Luckily, Jeff Passan's offseason preview arrived just in time to tantalize Yankee fans a bit more before the Winter Meetings and answer two of the remaining unanswered Soto questions we've been waiting to be defined. Both answers fell squarely in the Yankees' column yet again.

While doubt still remains that the Padres, who went all in last offseason, will go "all out" enough this year to trade Soto, the financial reality remains too tough for any rational team to bear. If you want to cut $50 million from your payroll, after requesting and receiving a $50 million loan, there's no easier way to do it than by trading the 2025 free agent. If you really want to get thrifty, you might even reduce the prospect package by including Jake Cronenworth and his long-term deal.

Passan is a believer that the Padres will eventually come to their senses and trade Soto. And, when they do, they'll target ... high-level pitching, which is music to Yankee fans' ears (and a perfect rebuttal to every low-tier troll who wasted their October bagging on New York's farm system. The Yankees have tons of that, from Drew Thorpe to Will Warren to Michael King to Clarke Schmidt, with enough left over to call up the Cardinals and entice them, too.

Who's getting in a motivated Yankees team's way, then? Passan thinks the Cubs and Mariners are interested and also fit the bill, but won't be willing to surrender what the Padres seek. In that case ... what are we waiting for?

Yankees can't let Mariners, Cubs trade for Juan Soto

Smart teams go very slightly above and beyond when pressed. The Yankees have the chance to be a smart team here, especially after watching the Rangers overextend themselves and earn a flag (which flies forever, by the way).

The "top-tier pitching" angle is the more important piece of Passan's speculation, rather than the "positing, then eliminating the Cubs/Mariners" stuff. That means other rival teams like the Red Sox, who should be lurking, probably can't; "Houck/Whitlock" could be the new "Frazier/Andújar," though, which might be fun.

The Yankees have the goods and the motivation here, despite what troglodytes who take pre-2023 FanGraphs farm system rankings as gospel would like to believe. Add in the weak free agent class of offensive players, and a Soto trade might be the Yankees' only hope to vault back into 2024 relevance. Even if you'd rather hold the arms and piece together a lineup out of smaller deals, there might not be many glue guys out there.

Soto's free agency? That's a worry for another winter (but the Cubs and Mariners probably don't want to get into that stratosphere, either). For now, bask in the fact that the ball is probably in the Yankees' court here to make the biggest move of the offseason (and don't think about how that means Cashman holds the cards).