NEW YORK -- Juan Soto’s arrival is a sign the New York Yankees want stars to help them rebound from their worst season in three decades -- a move right out of late owner George Steinbrenner’s playbook.
“We certainly want to try under the Steinbrenner leadership to make this the mecca of baseball,” general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday, a day after acquiring the three-time All-Star outfielder from San Diego in a seven-player trade. “George Steinbrenner always felt that the best players in the world should play here for the New York Yankees.
“Hal Steinbrenner and Jenny and Jessica have continued those efforts,” Cashman added, referring to the controlling owner’s sisters. “Juan Soto is the latest example of that, of their efforts to try to bring the greatest, most talented baseball players the world can provide to play and call home here in the Bronx.”
New York also got Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grisham in exchange for right-handed pitchers Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez and Drew Thorpe along with catcher Kyle Higashioka.
Soto, who turned 25 in October, hit .275 with 35 homers, 109 RBI and a .930 OPS in his only full season with the Padres and joins a batting order that includes Aaron Judge. Cashman likened pairing Soto with Judge to a card game.
“The great thing about the crazy eights is that one’s right-handed, one’s left-handed,” he said. “And so that creates a tougher lineup to navigate for the opposing pitchers.”
Judge will see considerable time in center field rather than right until rookie Jasson Domínguez returns from Tommy John surgery, likely in June or July. Judge was limited to 106 games last season by a strained right hip and then a sprained right big toe he hurt slamming into the Dodger Stadium wall to make a catch. His absence from the lineup factored into the Yankees going 82-80 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“We think he’s fine. We think he’s resolved. We think that that issue’s behind him,” Cashman said. “If opening day was today, he would certainly be running out there in center, which I know he loves. I think if you put truth serum in him, that’s what he’d want to do, regardless.”
Soto was obtained by San Diego from Washington in August 2022 after declining a 15-year, $440-million offer from the Nationals. He is in line for a salary of about $32 million in his last season of arbitration eligibility and can become a free agent after next year’s World Series.
“The future is always now,” Cashman said. “So ’24 is our focus and trying to become that last team standing once again as we’ve done in years gone by.”
Cashman said he hasn’t spoken with Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, about a long-term deal. New York hopes Soto’s presence will help attract Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a free agent the Yankees will meet with in California next week.
“Onboarding pitching is going to be important,” Cashman said.
Conversations with San Diego began ahead of last summer’s trade deadline, along with talks to land outfielder Alex Verdugo from Boston in a deal finalized Tuesday. The negotiations with the Padres resumed at the general managers’ meetings last month. Negotiations were slowed by the death of San Diego owner Peter Seidler and San Diego’s manager search.
Keeping Domínguez and shortstop Anthony Volpe out of a trade was a priority for the Yankees.
“But it didn’t stop them from asking,” Cashman said.