Juan Soto is a New York Yankee. This feels good to say, particularly after Wednesday’s grueling when-is-it-happening saga surrounding the deal. But, despite the various delays, the trade was made official Wednesday night, and Juan Soto will be wearing pinstripes in 2024. Trent Grisham will make the trip with him, while the Yankees are sending Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez, and Kyle Higashioka in return to the Padres. It is a lot, but any move that adds one of the game’s most dominant hitters, is fair to consider a good one. With a player of his caliber, things are certainly shaken up for the Yankees, while the volume and upside with some of the return to San Diego does the same for them.
We will go with the easy part first. Juan Soto: very, very good. Across six seasons between the Nationals and Padres, the star has hit .284/.421/.524 with 148 doubles, 160 homers, a 154 wRC+, and 28.4 fWAR. He is a generationally great hitter, and he obviously provides an immediate boost to the middle of the Yankee lineup, one that very few could match
For the Yankees, this completes their sudden new-look outfield, with Soto sliding into an everyday role, and Grisham figuring to work in as the fourth outfielder — likely to slot into the lineup whenever Giancarlo Stanton gets hurt and DH opens up. That unfortunate aspect must be built into the Yankees’ expectations at this point.
Soto and Grisham have only been in the fold for 24 hours at the time of writing this, but the outfield now figures to feature also newly-acquired Alex Verdugo in left, Judge up the middle, and Soto in right, with Grisham working in with his elite defense in center field. Defensively, the returns for Soto have been shaky, as two of his six seasons have graded quite well (88th percentile of better in OAA), while the rest have sat well below league average. Year-to-year defensive metrics are not the most reliable thing, but it’s certainly something to watch develop. Grisham, on the other hand, has been elite defensively since he came up, and will likely be of great help late in games or on a regular basis depending on how things shake out.
The lineup, however, is where the Yankees will see the biggest improvement. In 2023, the Yankees had a 94 wRC+ as a team, 19th in the Major Leagues, and certainly not nearly high enough for a team that wants to contend. In the outfield specifically, the number was about the same for the Yankees, but was buoyed almost entirely by Judge’s top-notch 458 plate appearances. Soto changes things radically. He has a 154 career wRC+, which would rank him 32nd all-time, comfortably slotted between Willie Mays and Frank Robinson