San Diego Padres fans have been preparing for this day for a while now and it has come. Juan Soto and Trent Grisham have been traded to the New York Yankees for Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Randy Vasquez, Jhony Brito and Kyle Higashioka. Joel Sherman was first to report that the deal was done.
The public knew about the players involved on early Wednesday afternoon but it took a while for the deal to become official due to medical information being exchanged between the two sides. Yankees GM Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone departed from the Winter Meetings later in the afternoon with San Diego continuing to be in Nashville where the baseball scouts dinner was taking place so there were some questions about when the deal was going to get into the end zone.
Soto hit a career-high 35 home runs in 2023, posting a .930 OPS and reaching his third All-Star Game. In his San Diego tenure, Soto hit .265 with an .893 OPS. Ultimately this trade for the Padres ended up being a failure because they didn’t get to a World Series or win a World Series and that was the whole reason why they gave up four of their top five prospects for him.
To make matters worse, the 25-year-old didn’t even finish his Washington Nationals contract in San Diego. But the Padres sort of made their bed when they extended Manny Machado ($350 million), Yu Darvish ($108 million) and Jake Cronenworth ($80 million). Of course they also signed Xander Bogaerts to a huge $280 million contract last offseason when they already had numerous shortstop options.
Then the TV deal went away with Diamond Sports and the Padres missed the postseason, which meant they weren’t getting millions and millions of dollars that they were probably banking on last season. Add Peter Seidler’s death to it and we’ve had a really tough last few months here as Padres fans.
Grisham, 27, still has two years of control and is projected to make around $6 million in 2024 but the Padres seemed to be done with this experiment. While the former Milwaukee Brewers prospect played Gold Glove defense in center field, San Diego needed more offense. After hitting .184 in 2022, Preller gave him another chance in 2023 but he still hit under .200 and struck out almost 30% of the time.
As he heads closer to free agency his salary is going to keep increasing in arbitration so it was time to part ways.
Getting to the return, the Padres needed to get starting pitching back and they were able to do that in this deal. New York had the best return they were going to get and a big reason why was because they had major league ready pitching and a top pitching prospect that they could give A.J. Preller.
Michael King was “key” to the deal, according to Kevin Acee. He posted a 2.75 ERA last season, which included posting a 2.02 ERA and 2.41 FIP in his last seven games as starter. New York didn’t want to give him up because he was going to be in their rotation for the next two years but if they wanted Soto, that was the price of doing business.
Clarke Schmidt was viewed as the lesser of the two between him and King so good for Preller for standing his ground when it came to him and Thorpe. Trading Soto hurts the Padres so Brian Cashman was going to have to feel it too for a deal to get done.
Drew Thorpe was the guy the Padres wanted more than Chase Hampton and New York was reluctant to give him up. He posted a 2.52 ERA in his first minor league season with a great WHIP under 1. Hampton, on the other hand, posted a 3.63 ERA with over 30 fewer innings than Thorpe (1.14 WHIP).
Brito and Vasquez (NYY #13 prospect), who both debuted last season, figure to slot into the bullpen but they have the ability to start games if needed (or should I say when they’re needed to). Brito went 5+ innings seven times in 2023 with Vasquez starting five of his 11 appearances in pinstripes last season.
When you have a Hall of Fame talent in Soto on your club like Preller had, he needed to maximize the return. The Padres haven’t been able to develop great pitching in the Preller era but now here’s another huge opportunity to do that with Thorpe, Robby Snelling, Dylan Lesko, Jairo Iriarte and Adam Mazur all in the system.
Higashioka is one of the more solid backup catchers you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. He’s not going to hit for average or power but really how many backups do? In the both of the last two seasons, he’s been able to catch over 80 games including for stretches like May of 2023 injuries occurred.
This trade was going to come at some point and now that it has happened, the Padres can now really start their offseason.
Reply in the comments: Do you like what San Diego got back?