NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees acquired All-Star slugger Juan Soto in a blockbuster trade with the cost-cutting San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.
San Diego received right-handed pitchers Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez and Drew Thorpe along with catcher Kyle Higashioka. In addition to Soto, the Yankees get Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grisham.
Both teams announced the trade late Wednesday night.
It's the second blockbuster deal involving the 25-year-old Soto in less than two years. The three-time All-Star has one season of team control left and is likely to get a salary around $32 million after batting .275 with 35 homers, 109 RBIs and a .930 OPS in his only full season with the Padres.
San Diego acquired Soto from Washington on Aug. 2, 2022, after he turned down a $440 million, 15-year offer from the Nationals.
Padres general manager A.J. Preller said his team needed pitching and this deal gives them players who will be with them for several years.
“It’s very difficult to make a deal where we're trading a player the caliber of Juan Soto, but if we did that we wanted to make sure we shored up a bunch of needs. We were able to get some depth, with quality,” Preller said.
Soto joins a Yankees outfield that projects to have fellow All-Star Aaron Judge in center and newly acquired Alex Verdugo in the other corner. Soto, like Verdugo, adds a left-handed bat to a lineup that was righty heavy for several seasons. Yankees lefties had 55 homers and 171 RBIs last year while righties had 164 homers and 479 RBIs. New York missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“They were aggressive," Preller said. "They had a need and Juan is an incredible player and fit the need really well. When you have two teams that line up, and you have a team that’s calling you consistently, you usually get a feel that this is something that has a chance to happen and hopefully it’s a deal that works out for both sides.”
The trade comes amid reports the Padres are slashing their payroll by as much as $50 million after flopping last season and missing the playoffs despite World Series aspirations. The Padres also have a desperate need for starting pitching after NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo became free agents.
Soto’s relatively young age at free agency will be comparable to that of fellow Scott Boras client Bryce Harper, who was 26 when he signed a $330 million, 13-year contract with Philadelphia ahead of the 2019 season. In six major league seasons, Soto has a .284 batting average with 160 homers, 483 RBIs and a .946 OPS. He won a World Series title with the Nationals in 2019.
The Padres sent a bevy of promising prospects to Washington — including shortstop CJ Abrams and starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore — for Soto and first baseman Josh Bell. They said the deal was worth it because they’d have Soto for three playoff runs. Soto helped San Diego the NL Championship Series in 2022, but the Padres underwhelmed last season despite also having stars Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Xander Bogaerts in the lineup.
There have been reports the Padres tried to sign Soto to an extension, but Boras generally likes to have his star clients hit the free-agent market.
“With Juan, from an extension standpoint, obviously it’s great when you’re able to sign players long term, but there’s cost of doing that as well," Preller said. "For us, the ability to add players that are controllable, that we think are going to perform well, be with us for multiple years, I think from a big-picture perspective it was a move that just opened up a lot of different avenues for us.”
King, a 28-year-old right-hander, averages 94-96 mph with his sinking fastball and had a 2.75 ERA last season while going 4-8 in nine starts and 40 relief appearances. He struck out 127 and walked 32 in 104 2/3 innings, excelling after moving from the bullpen into the rotation on Aug. 24.
King can become a free agent after the 2025 season.
Brito, who turns 26 in February, made his major league debut with the Yankees last season and went 9-7 with a 4.28 ERA and one save in 13 starts and 12 relief appearances. He struck out 72 and walked 28 in 90 1/3 innings.
Vásquez, 25, also made his big league debut this year and finished 2-2 with a 2.87 ERA in five starts and six relief outings.
Higashioka, who turns 34 in April, has spent his entire seven-year major league career with the Yankees and batted .236 with 10 homers, 34 RBIs and a .687 OPS last season. He is a favorite batterymate of New York ace and 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole going back to their teenage years as teammates.
The 23-year-old Thorpe, selected in the second round of the 2022 amateur draft, was 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA at Class A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset last season. He struck out 182 and walked 38 in 139 1/3 innings.
Wilson reported from San Diego.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB
Ronald Blum And Bernie Wilson, The Associated Press