On one hand, Baseball America's newfangled Yankees Top 10 prospect rankings, which dropped on Monday, could help convince the San Diego Padres to engage in good faith on a Juan Soto trade.
But, on the other, they certainly made the Yankees' refusal to include Drew Thorpe in the conversation look rather silly. Ideally, that stance is soon revealed to have been posturing all along.
Entering the Winter Meetings Monday morning, it seemed the tide turned once again in the Yankees' direction, after dissections of the Padres' seven-player ask, Brian Cashman's stalemate, and the Toronto Blue Jays' involvement dominated the weekend.
Late Sunday night, Brendan Kuty of The Athletic revealed the two sides intended to pick up talks in person again this week. On Monday morning, MLB's Mark Feinsand expressed confidence in the Yankees getting a deal done and dusted.
"Other clubs -- including the Blue Jays -- remain engaged on Soto, as well, but if he’s going to be traded this week, it’s starting to feel like it’s the Yankees or bust."- Mark Feinsand
The Yankees' reported trepidation thus far has revolved around the inclusion of righties Michael King and/or Drew Thorpe, as well as the sheer size of the package the Padres demanded to begin the conversation, including the unwelcome foisting of Trent Grisham's salary. Odds are, if this deal is going to be completed, the Yankees are probably going to need to relent on one of those two names. King, a starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter-again, has only two years of control remaining and suffered a bizarre elbow fracture that derailed his 2022 season. Thorpe, thought of as an ascendent prospect, was ranked seventh in Baseball America's new Top 10 -- behind righty Chase Hampton in the No. 4 spot.
So, how do the Yankees sweeten the package if Thorpe's national value isn't as high as they believe it to be internally? Perhaps BA gave them a hint, ranking teenaged pitching prospect Henry Lalane eighth. He doesn't fulfill San Diego's requirement for "big-league ready" pitching, but what about King OR Thorpe, Brito, Vasquez, and Lalane as a fast-riser who could soon exceed them all?
Yankees have golden chance to sweeten pot in Juan Soto trade (but, uh, not that much)
(Side note: Look at that Ben Rice love. BEST contact hitter?!)
It's tough to fathom why the Padres wouldn't accept a fast-riser like Lalane, as long as their other needs were being met. The Yankees couldn't shy away from including King/Clarke Schmidt or Hampton/Thorpe, but if San Diego continues to balk at packages that don't include all of the above, pointing to BA's latest insight and holding their hand as you project Lalane's next three years doesn't sound like a bad consolation prize.
As Ken Rosenthal said on Monday, the Mariners still appear less than inclined to take on Soto's bulk salary, even after clearing space. Blue Jays insider Shi Davidi said similar things about the team he covers being willing to offer all their upper-level pitching. This may take a while to resolve, but it feels like it's going to fall on the shoulders of Brian Cashman and AJ Preller to find a package that works. Lalane could function nicely as a bargaining chip.