TRADE: Padres land a Brinks truck of talent for Juan Soto

December 6, 2023

Wednesday, the San Diego Padres swung a trade with the New York Yankees sending outfielders Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the Bronx in exchange for right-handers Jhony Brito, Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Randy Vasquez, and catcher Kyle Higashioka.

It was a deal many expected imminent this winter. The Yankees realistic window with rich contract guys like Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole is slowly closing and their time to capitalize is now. Soto’s superstar qualities and left-handed bat will not only play beautifully in Yankee Stadium, but the concrete jungle that is the Big Apple as a whole.

Soto is set to hit free agency after the 2024 season, and the haul the Yankees surrendered for a year of service certainly isn’t light. But much like the deal that sent three arms to the Red Sox for Alex Verdugo, the move is necessary given where that franchise is as a whole.

Yankees Return

Soto, 25, is arguably one of the Top 15 players in the entire sport. He’s already been worth close to 30 fWAR in his six year career. His 5.5 fWAR in 2023 came despite an unspectacular first half of the season. Soto slashed .275/.410/.519 with a career-high 35 home runs last year. The short porch at Yankee Stadium should lend well toward that total staying healthy and high next season.

He’ll immediately slot in as the starting left fielder for New York where his average speed and average throwing arm should fit fine. He’s capable of handling right field as well, though it’s assumed Judge and Verdugo will likely man that position on a rotating basis as they’re better fits with their considerable arm strength.

Soto figures to hit third or fourth in a Yankees lineup that is shaping up to be one of the more imposing in the American League.

The Yankees had to consider the risk here, too, however. It’s one season of control of the superstar hitter, with a hefty price tag to keep him in the Bronx long-term, believed to be at least $400 million. Soto is projected to earn around $33 million in 2024, his final season under arbitration.

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Grisham, 27, is quite a useful player despite struggling to find his footing offensively in San Diego. He’s essentially been a 2 fWAR player each year since 2020. Over the last two seasons Grisham has hit under .200, though he’s still getting to some of his plus raw power. Contact quality has long been an issue here, though when he squares one up, it’ll go. Maybe he unlocks a new gear with the short porch at Yankee Stadium.

He walks a ton, but strikes out a lot as well. Grisham is likely to play quite a few games for New York in center field, and will get a sizable number of innings late in games as a defensive substitute. He’s a premium defender who takes elite routes to the ball. His throwing arm is also quite a bit better than most of his centerfield peers; above average. Grisham is a solid average runner and does provide some value on the base paths as well.


Grisham is essentially a perfect fourth outfielder, and has two years of club control remaining. He’s expected to make close to $5 million in 2024.

Padres Return

The Padres’ plan to pare back payroll this winter comes on the heels of several years of unprecedented spending from a smaller market franchise. San Diego spent north of $290 million in 2023. That number just five years ago was $142 million. Moving Soto takes their Projected Total Tax Allocations for the 2024 season down closer to $200 million.

Thorpe and King are the big pieces here, the former being a pretty noteworthy big-league pitching prospect. A second-round pick by the Yankees in 2022, Thorpe works with a huge assortment of pitches. The fastball is deceptive with a plus control and can flash big shape at its best, tickling 95 mph, but usually sitting 91-93.

His changeup is his best weapon. He throws it with conviction and darting action off the fastball tunnel. It lives 82-83 and it is a whiff-generating machine. It’s the definition of a plus pitch and it will be effective at the next level. Thorpe throws a gyro slider that performs well coming off the fastball tunnel as well. There’s also a curveball and a fringier cutter that keep hitters off the barrel.

It’s a well-rounded arsenal with effective avenues in getting every type of hitter out. Across High-A and Double-A in 2023, Thorpe tossed 139 innings, punching 182 tickets and walking just 38. He was one of the best pitchers in Minor League Baseball last summer.

He’s likely to start 2024 at Double-A San Antonio, but could get a taste of the big leagues this summer. Thorpe has a chance to develop into a strong No. 3 arm in any rotation, especially if he can squeeze even the slightest bit more value out of his fastball.

King, 28, has more established big-league experience and should factor immediately into the Padres’ Opening Day plans. In nine starts and 49 total appearances in pinstripes this past season, King threw 104.2 innings, striking out 127 and walking 27.

It’s assumed he’ll likely take on a starter role for a Padres team searching for options in their rotation considering the free agency of Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo and Nick Martinez this winter — 91 starts they must replace.

King is a heavy four-seam/sinker guy who throws his two heaters 93-96 mph, the former being the better performing pitch. He’ll pitch to contact with the sinker when he falls behind. A low-80s slider is thrown roughly 30 percent of the time and it’s been an effective put-away pitch, especially against right-handed hitters.

There’s also an upper-80s changeup that King likes to throw against lefties, but it’s not as developed as his other pitches and was hit around a bit in 2023.

Brito, 26 in February, debuted last season, making 13 starts and 12 relief appearances with mixed results. He’s always thrown strikes, but the stuff is rather ordinary beyond a potentially-plus changeup.

His sinker sits 95-97 mph and coupled with his changeup Brito has a chance to get some ground ball outs and take some pressure off the fact he doesnt have a swing-and-miss offering — at least not yet. His cutter and curveball are fringey entering 2024.

Vasquez made his big-league debut in 2023 as well, also with mixed results and also in a split role. There’s some fun raw stuff here, namely a high-spin curveball that may end up a 70-grade pitch and good fastball value beyond the 93-96 mph velocity. He’ll also throw plenty of two-seamers to avoid the barrel and avoid a flat fastball.

Vasquez’s control inconsistencies may render him a bullpen arm.

Veteran catcher Higashioka completes the Padres’ haul. He’s spent parts of six seasons in the bronx and has developed into a srong defender with some pop from the right side, but the 33-year-old owns a career .253 OBP and struggles mightily versus right-handed pitching, suggesting San Diego may use him versus lefties to give No. 1 catcher Luis Campusano a break.

The combined projected salaries of Higashioka and King equal that of Grisham, so the payroll relief here stands at Soto’s projected $33 million. How much flexibility that creates for GM AJ Preller to continue to add to his pitching staff and replace two starting outfielders remains to be seen, but both have to be on the club’s radar now that the Soto saga is complete.

In this trade, Preller did add pitching options and depth, and a shot all five players see the majors for the club this season — four of them currently project to open the season with the Padres, Thorpe, the long-term prize in this one, may need more time in the minors, having spent just 30.1 innings above High-A.

Joe Doyle
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