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After weeks of rumors, the Yankees and Padres reportedly connected on a deal late Wednesday night to send all-star outfielder Juan Soto to New York in exchange for a package of prospects and established big leaguers with multiple years of control.
The move further fortifies and diversifies the Yankees’ lineup—coming a day after New York acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Red Sox—with one of the game’s preeminent young hitters.
In return, San Diego adds an arm in Michael King who in 2023 emerged as a potential rotation piece with plenty of long-term upside and two more seasons of control at the head of a pitching-heavy package. The deal also includes top Yankees pitching prospect Drew Thorpe, who last season led the minor leagues in strikeouts and racked up the most whiffs by a Yankees farmhand since Brandon Claussen punched out 220 hitters in 2001.
The other pieces in the deal according to multiple reports include young big league pitchers Randy Vasquez and Jhony Brito, as well as veteran catcher Kyle Higashioka, who was the part of a six-man logjam at the position on New York’s 40-man roster.
See the 10 best prospects in the Yankees system, including brand new scouting reports for every player.
Juan Soto, OF
Soto was one of the fastest-moving prospects in recent memory. An injury cut short his 2017 season, but the outfielder hit warp speed through the minors the next season. He spent no more than 16 games in three stops at Low-A, High-A and Double-A and was promoted to the big leagues in between games of a doubleheader at Richmond and made his debut as a 19-year-old. Since then, all he’s done is hit. His signature moment came with the 2019 World Series-champion Nationals, when he took Astros ace Justin Verlander deep as part of a standout performance on the game’s biggest stage.
The Nationals dealt Soto to the Padres in 2022 for a package of prospects and big leaguers that included infielder CJ Abrams, lefty MacKenzie Gore, outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood and righthander Jarlin Susana. First baseman Josh Bell also went to the Padres in the deal, while Luke Voit went to Washington. Abrams and Gore are now established big leaguers, while Wood ranks as one of the team’s best prospects and Susana is one of the hardest throwers in the minor leagues.
Now, Soto is one of the best hitters in the game, period. At just 25 years old, he’s already a four-time Silver Slugger winner, a three-time all-star, a batting champion and World Series winner. He adds a potential franchise cornerstone to the Yankees’ lineup, which also gets more balance because he is a lefthanded hitter. Soto is a free agent after the season, but for 2024 will add to a lineup that includes Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Alex Verdugo and will likely be supplemented by Jasson Dominguez at some point. If the Yankees retain Soto beyond 2024, he and Judge will form the bedrock of a fearsome lineup.
Trent Grisham, OF
Grisham was the Brewers’ first-round pick in 2015 out of high school in Texas. Milwaukee dealt him to the Padres in 2019 along with Zach Davies in the deal that sent Eric Lauer and Luis Urias back to the Brewers. With the Padres, Grisham has been boom or bust. He strikes out way too much, but can do damage when he makes contact, and has provided double-digit home runs in each of his past four seasons. Despite his warts at the plate, Grisham’s defense has been elite enough to earn regular playing time. He won Gold Gloves in 2020 and 2022 and would add a slam dunk center fielder to a New York outfield that has lacked a true center fielder in recent years.
Drew Thorpe, RHP
Thorpe works with a five-pitch mix, though his four-seam fastball, slider and changeup are the main pieces of his repertoire. The fastball has gained a few ticks since college and averaged 92 mph while maxing out at 94 in a season split between High-A and Double-A. The pitch is amplified by outstanding control and command and an average of more than 17 inches of induced vertical break. Thorpe’s changeup is his best offspeed offering, a true plus pitch with roughly 10 mph of separation from his fastball and a whiff rate of nearly 64%. His slider, which he throws nearly as often as his fastball, averaged 84 mph with bullet shape and garnered whiffs at a 35% rate. Scouts give the slider a chance to be above-average. Thorpe also has a high-80s cutter and low-80s sweeping curveball he uses as strike-stealers early in counts. He ties his mix together with plus control as well as highly competitive makeup. Thorpe finished the year with 182 strikeouts, the most in the minor leagues, and the highest total by a Yankees prospect since at least 2005. He ranked as New York’s No. 4 prospect.
Michael King, RHP
King was originally selected by Miami out of Boston College in the 12th round of the 2016 draft, then was dealt to New York in 2017 for Caleb Smith and Garrett Cooper. As a prospect, he was praised for his ability to move his arsenal to all quadrants of the strike zone. He ranked as high as No. 5 in the system but injuries—including stress fractures in his back and right elbow—slowed his development. He emerged toward the end of 2023 as an intriguing salve for a badly beleaguered rotation that needed reinforcements. After serving as a power multi-inning option, King made nine starts for New York and was outstanding, with 51 strikeouts to just nine walks over 40.1 innings. His four-seam and sinker each average around 94 mph, and he backs them with a sweeper and a changeup, both of which got whiffs between 39-41% of the time.
Jhony Brito, RHP
Brito ranked as the Yankees’ No. 30 prospect entering the season thanks to proximity to the big leagues and a strong floor of a swingman or No. 5 starter’s role. He missed a chunk of the 2022 season with dead arm but still graded as the organization’s best strike-thrower. Brito’s best offspeed weapon is his changeup, a high-80s pitch that was his most frequently thrown and by far most effective non-fastball. Brito’s biggest issue in the past has long been a lack of feel to spin the ball, and he for years struggled to find a fungible breaking ball. That issue popped up in the big leagues, too, where both his fastball and curveball spin were among the worst in the sport. Still, he is a durable, controllable strike-thrower who at the very least can eat innings in the big leagues and has some upside if he can find a way to spin the ball.
Randy Vasquez, RHP
Vasquez signed in 2018 out of the Dominican Republic. He finished his 2022 season on a high note by throwing the first eight innings of a no-hitter that sealed Somerset’s Eastern League championship victory. The righthander, who made his big league debut in 2023, works with a deep arsenal that consists of four-seam, two-seam and cut fastballs, a changeup and a sweeping breaking ball that he calls a curveball but moves like a slider. His primary goal in 2023 was adding polish. The Yankees wanted him to move the ball around the zone more and be aggressive in his attempts to set hitters up with fastballs so he could use his breaking pitches in advantage counts. The cutter is the newest part of his arsenal and gives him a more effective weapon against righthanders. None of his pitches gets a large amount of swings and misses, but he generally did a good job keeping hitters off the barrel. He walked more than four hitters per nine innings in the big leagues, suggesting the need to further tighten his command of the strike zone.
Kyle Higashioka, C
One of the longest tenured Yankees on the big league roster, Higashioka was selected by New York in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of high school in Huntington Beach, California, which is about 100 mph away from San Diego. Higashioka made his big league debut nine years later and has gotten regular playing time since 2021. He’s an excellent pitch framer and has controlled the running game in the past. That was especially true in 2022, when he caught 41% of attempted basestealers. He has bottom of the order offensive skills and shows just enough pop to hit exactly 10 home runs in each of his last three seasons. He’ll add to a San Diego catching corps that includes Luis Campusano and Brett Sullivan.