2023-12-07 · 3 min read · MLB/Baseball
Yankees Michael King and outfielder Juan Soto from the Padres

USA Today Sports | Adam Hunger/Getty Images

If it wasn’t already imperative for the Blue Jays to make a major splash, it sure is now.
In what’s easily been the biggest move in the offseason thus far, the New York Yankees have acquired outfielders Juan Soto and Trent Grisham from the San Diego Padres in exchange for right-handers Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito, Randy Vasquez, and catcher Kyle Higashioka.
A day after rumors were circulating that negotiations between the two sides had broken down, New York pulls through. A newly-reconstructed outfield of Soto-Judge-Verdugo (in some combination) is scary to say the least, with a starting-caliber replacement in Trent Grisham waiting in the wings. For a while it was known as a “when” not “if” deal with regards to Soto, as San Diego has admitted to wanting to lower their organizational salary. Toronto was also thought to have been a finalist for superstar outfielder, though their focus is now squarely on the likes of Shohei Ohtani.
In Soto, New York gets one of the best hitters in baseball. The 25-year old smacked a career-high 35 homers in 2023, while slugging .275/.410/.519 over a full 162-game season. Soto is a three-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, four-time Top-10 MVP finisher, and came second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019. He’s a lefty too, something the Yankees desperately needed and now have - Verdugo, Grisham and Soto all swing from the left side.
Trent Grisham is an interesting piece, another everyday player whose offense has severely dipped over the last two seasons. Over the first three years, Grisham hit a decent .243 while striking out a quarter of the time - his defense was excellent though, which gave him ample opportunity to win the two Gold Gloves he now possesses. With Stanton solidified as New York’s DH and Soto and Judge not going anywhere, it’ll come down to a battle of Grisham vs. Verdugo for playing time - likely in CF - unless one is flipped elsewhere.
Heading back to San Diego is a smattering of talent, highlighted by Michael King and Drew Thorpe. King established himself in 2021, getting increasingly better over the last two years - he tossed a career-high 104 ⅔ IP in 2023 while flaunting a fantastic 2.75 ERA and 3.13 FIP. He’s slightly older, 28-years old, but the consensus appears to be that he has the makings to be one of the better arms on the Padres’ staff. Thorpe on the other hand, he was New York’s #5 Prospect. Over A and AA, Thorpe went 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA while tossing 139 ⅓ innings in his first year of professional baseball. Only Chase Hampton, another AA righty, ranked higher than Thorpe in New York’s Top-30 list.
Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez are slightly lesser names in the deal, with Brito starting 13 games for the Yankees in ‘23 and Vasquez starting 5. The latter allowed 12 runs over 37 ⅔ IP, the former 43 (earned) over 90 ⅓ IP. One, if not both, will factor into the Major League squad immediately for the Padres, who lack high-caliber rotation depth. Assuming Blake Snell is gone, and by all accounts he will be, San Diego’s current rotation consists of Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Pedro Avila, and knuckleballer Matt Waldron.
The light-hitting Kyle Higashioka will also be heading south-west, as the 33-year old will split catching duties with Brett Sullivan and Luis Campusano. Higashioka, a noted Blue Jays killer, hit .236 last year with 10 homers and 34 driven in.
Yankees fans have long been driven mad by GM Brian Cashman’s roster decisions, pleading with ownership to make a big move. This is it, and barring injury New York will maintain one of the best, if not the best, outfields in the game.
Elsewhere, a few other transactions came down the wire during the final day of MLB’s Winter Meetings.
The Houston Astros have acquired reliever Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for righty Carlos Mateo. After a terrific 2022 in which Coleman posted a 2.78 ERA over 68 games with the Royals, he struggled in 2023 and was sent down to AAA after 23 games in which he amassed a whopping 8.84 ERA. Additionally, this allowed Kansas City to clear a 40-man roster spot prior to the Rule 5 Draft.
The Baltimore Orioles have signed Craig Kimbrel to a one-year contract with a club option for 2025, after he posted a 3.26 ERA and 3.81 FIP over 71 games with the Phillies in 2023. Though he notched 23 saves, Kimbrel struggled mightily down the stretch and into the playoffs drawing the ire of many Philly fans. Formerly one of the best closers in baseball, an up-and-coming Orioles squad will gain a ton of experience in addition to help patch the hole left by an injured Felix Bautista. Baltimore remains interested in fellow Free Agent reliever Robert Stephenson.
The Los Angeles Angels have added another arm to their bullpen, announcing that they’ve signed ex-Blue Jay Adam Cimber to a one-year, $1.65 Million deal. Plagued with injury in 2023, the submarine righty struggled mightily with Toronto over just 20 ⅔ IP amidst multiple IL appearances.
The reigning National League Champion Arizona Diamondbacks also made a splash, signing lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year, $80 Million contract. He recently opted out of his deal with Detroit, and now inks a new one with Arizona following a great 2023 that saw Rodriguez post a 3.30 ERA over 152 ⅔ innings whilst striking out 143. It’s a sneaky-good move for the D-Backs, as he now joins a stellar rotation with Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Brandon Pfaadt, and Tommy Henry. Drey Jameson is expected to miss most, if not all, of 2023 with Tommy John Surgery.
The Major and Minor league portions of MLB’s Rule 5 Draft also took place, with 10 selections being added to Major League rosters. All in all, eight of the ten were pitchers (one lefty), with three of them coming from the New York Yankees’ farm system. Most notably, Mitch Spence (AAA, 4.47 ERA) and Matt Sauer (AA, 3.42 ERA) were selected first and second by the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals, respectively. Colorado, Chicago (AL), Washington, St. Louis, New York (NL), Cleveland, San Diego, and Texas all selected one player as well. Nasim Nunez, a SS, and Deyvison De Los Santos, a 3B, were the only two position players that were taken, by the Nationals and Guardians.
Many more individuals were selected in the Minor League Portion, with all but five teams making at least one pick. The Toronto Blue Jays selected outfielder Alexis from the Boston Red Sox, while the organization lost infielder Angel Del Rosario to the Minnesota Twins, and utilityman Trevor Schwecke to the Philadelphia Phillies.
In the realm of Ohtani news? Well, as another day passes we draw ever closer…
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By: Gus Cousins


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