The inevitable finally happened: Juan Soto is leaving San Diego to become a New York Yankee.
After a lot of speculation and starting and stopping of conversations with multiple teams over many months, the Padres and longtime Soto trade frontrunners in New York have finally come to an agreement. Soto will take his estimated $27 million salary to the Bronx for at least one year until he reaches free agency following the 2024 season, and he'll be joined by Trent Grisham. In return, the Padres will receive five players from the Yankees, including pitcher Michael King, top Yankees pitching prospect Drew Thorpe, and catcher Kyle Higashioka.
It's undoubtedly a tough day for Padres fans, who saw Soto slash .275/.410/.519 with a .930 OPS in his one and only full year in San Diego. He'll be taking his incredible 18.6% walk rate and career average of 27 home runs a year to a team that slugs and really, really needs to accept that walking is an acceptable aspect of baseball. Soto is a young superstar, and that shouldn't be underestimated either — he'll certainly leave a gap in the Padres' offense that it'll take some effort to fill again.
The new San Diego Padres after Juan Soto trade to New York Yankees
But all's not lost. Talks with the Yankees stalled and turned stilted often because New York was at certain points unwilling to give up the talent they eventually conceded, and the Padres refused to accept less for Soto. A few of the players coming over could have a quick impact on the team going into 2024, and the others will help bolster an improving farm system. All will give the Padres more pitching depth on multiple levels. Here are the new Padres coming to San Diego in return for Juan Soto.
The newest Padre who will have the most immediate effect on the team is pitcher Michael King, who the Yankees seemed reluctant to give up throughout negotiations. This isn't surprising; King, primarily a reliever through his five seasons in New York, was being primed to take a spot in the Yankees' rotation next year. He started nine games this year, eight of which represented his last appearances of the year. Over those eight games, he pitched 38 1/3 innings and finished the year with a 2.75 ERA, and on Sept. 30, he pitched seven innings with 13 strikeouts against the Blue Jays. He also closed 10 games and wracked up six saves.
King is clearly more than on his way to becoming a solid middle rotation option; Aaron Boone was fully expecting King to join the rotation for the Yankees next season. In coming to the Padres, King is already prepared to take over in the spot Seth Lugo, another longtime-reliever-to-successful-starter who came to the Padres from a New York team, vacated in free agency. Even if his production as a starter wanes or doesn't quite live up to the expectations he's set for himself this year, he could still be used as a more than effective reliever in multiple contexts.