In a potential blockbuster move, the New York Yankees have “intensified” their efforts to trade for San Diego Padres right fielder Juan Soto just days after adding outfielder Alex Verdugo, reports YES Network’s Jack Curry.
The Bombers Back in the Soto Sweepstakes
After talks reportedly broke down earlier this offseason over the Padres’ steep asking price, the Yankees seemed ready to pivot from the Soto sweepstakes after the Verdugo trade. But rumors are again swirling about Soto taking his talents to the Bronx for 2024 as the Yankees look to make a free agency splash.
At just 24, Soto rejected a $440 million deal from Washington this year to hit free agency as arguably the most coveted player available. He hit .242 with 27 homers and 62 RBIs across 144 games in 2023, adding to his blossoming resume as one of baseball’s brightest young stars.
For the Yankees, he would provide an instant injection of left-handed power and balance to a heavily righty-laden lineup. Soto also gets on base at an elite clip, posting a .401 OBP over his six MLB seasons so far. For a Yankees offense that struggled mightily at times in 2023, Soto could be the perfect puzzle piece to vault the club back to World Series contention.
Ohtani Suitors Narrowed Down to Handful of Contenders
Like Soto, Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani is set to cash in big this winter as the most intriguing free agent prize in years. With his all-world talent both at the plate and on the mound, Ohtani is a true two-way unicorn drawing interest from nearly every club.
But his list of top suitors is apparently narrowing. Per Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Mets, Red Sox, and Rangers are now considered out of the running. The Dodgers, Blue Jays, Cubs, and Ohtani’s current Angels remain the front runners.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made waves by admitting the club met with Ohtani, seen by most executives as tampering before free agency opened. But Los Angeles has never hidden its goal of making a run at the Japanese Babe Ruth.
After missing the postseason in 2023, the Dodgers seem poised to flex their financial might to pair Ohtani with budding superstar Julio Rodriguez and finally capture that elusive World Series crown.
Cardinals Stock Up Rotation With Sonny Gray Signing
Looking to revamp their aging rotation, the St. Louis Cardinals made their second big free-agent splash by signing righty Sonny Gray to a 3-year, $75 million deal on November 27.
The 34-year-old Gray joins Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson as new Cardinal additions after posting a stellar 2.79 ERA across 184 innings for the Twins last season. Gray ranked seventh in Zach Crizer’s top 25 free agents breakdown.
For a St. Louis squad with their championship window rapidly closing, the front office is clearly in win-now mode. Between Arenado, Goldschmidt, and Pujols, their core won’t remain intact much longer.
With Gray now locked down through 2026 alongside Lynn and Gibson, the Cardinals seem ready to make another World Series push while their veterans still anchor the roster.
Phillies Ink Aaron Nola to $172 Million Contract
The Philadelphia Phillies ended the hot stove’s early winter lull by signing homegrown ace Aaron Nola to a lucrative 7-year, $172 million extension on November 19.
Nola has quietly been one of baseball’s most consistent arms since debuting with the Phillies in 2015. The 29-year-old is coming off a 2023 campaign where he led Philly’s staff in innings (205) and strikeouts (235) while compiling an impressive 3.25 ERA, third-best among NL starters.
Ranked third on Crizer’s free agent big board, Nola gave Philly a significant discount to stay, a bargain $24.4 million average annual value for a pitcher of his caliber.
With Nola locked up long term alongside Zack Wheeler, the Phillies now boast one of baseball’s premier one-two rotation punches and figure to remain contenders throughout the deals.
Stephen Vogt First Manager Hired; Counsell to Cubs in Stunner
This offseason features ample managerial vacancies across baseball, and the first skipper domino fell in Cleveland. On November 6, the Guardians tapped former catcher Stephen Vogt as Terry Francona’s successor after his retirement.
But the biggest dugout bombshell came later that day. After a successful tenure in Milwaukee, Craig Counsell is leaving the Brewers to take over the Chicago Cubs on a shocking 5-year, $40+ million managerial contract.
The Cubs deal makes Counsell the highest paid manager in baseball, quite a transition for the franchise after losing over 100 games in 2023. Perhaps no one watched Counsell guide winning clubs in Milwaukee more closely than Chicago’s front office.
Meanwhile, the Mets are replacing Buck Showalter with Yankees coach Carlos Mendoza as their surprise pick. For Counsell, Vogt and Mendoza, the managerial carousel is just getting started.
Veteran Ron Washington Hired to Guide Angels
The final managerial vacancy was filled on November 8 as the Los Angeles Angels tapped Ron Washington for his first job as full-time skipper since 2014. Washington served as the Atlanta Braves third base coach since 2016 after an eight-year run managing the Texas Rangers.
In Texas, Washington guided the franchise to consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. He now takes over an Angels squad desperate to capitalize on the prime years of stars Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
The Angels know Washington well from his AL West days in Texas. His veteran leadership and knack for getting the most from his roster could prove the perfect formula to snap LA’s seven-year playoff drought.
For the Angels and new GM Phil Nevin, the Washington hire signals a win-now mandate in 2024 to finally surround Ohtani and Trout with a competent supporting cast.