Juan Soto trade talks could reveal Yankees’ Hal Steinbrenner

As a special team guard in 1998, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman correctly bet at the trade deadline that he could win a title without giving Seattle what it wanted for Randy Johnson. Cashman now faces similar circumstances with the Nationals and Juan Soto, but this time the call is harder to make.

In 1998, Cashman knew the core Yankees could win it all without Johnson because they had done it two years earlier. GM doesn’t have such a source of comfort this summer. His team hasn’t hit the jackpot since 2009, and given the history and expectations that define the franchise, this championship “drought” lasts as long as that of the Jets (January 1969) and Knicks (May 1973).

Cashman has seen it all in his quarter-century on the job, and frankly, I don’t think we’ll learn much about him by 6 p.m. on August 2. He is highly qualified to determine whether a prospect-plus package headlined by Anthony Volpe is a price to pay for Soto. But if the GM temporarily gets along with his Washington counterpart, Mike Rizzo, I think we’ll learn something about Hal Steinbrenner.

As in, how badly the Yankees owner wants to win.

Yes, of course, everyone wants to win. But there’s a big difference between saying you want to win and acting like you need to win. Steinbrenner’s decision whether or not to approve an acquisition of Soto and the potential half-billion dollar deal coming after 2024 – in addition to a potential monster deal for Aaron Judge and existing monster deals for Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton – would identify which camp he is on.

Up front, understand that employing the 23-year-old Soto for three playoffs alone would be worth just about anything Rizzo could ask for. Now in Double-A ball, the 21-year-old Volpe could be a long-term Yankees shortstop off the center roster as the hugely talented Jersey Boy who idolized Derek Jeter.

Yankees
Hal Steinbrenner
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

But measuring its advantage requires educated guesswork. There are no educated guesses with Soto, who at Volpe’s current age had already delivered a season of 34 home runs and 110 RBIs in the big leagues and a performance of three home runs and seven RBIs in a series. world winner. Soto only needs to drive four more balls over the fence to have more homers before his 24th birthday than another hitter who burst into the sport at age 19. A child named Mickey Mantle.

Soto would be something with that right-hand porch in the Bronx. He also draws more walks than anyone else in baseball, giving him a career-best on-base percentage (.427) than Mantle or Mike Trout. And the fact that he could absorb a lengthy media discussion of the 15-year, $440 million national bid he rejected and then win the Home Run Derby hours later suggests…well…what all the rest of his resume suggests:

That the Yankees (64-28) with Soto would be a near-death-and-taxes lock in the playoffs to beat Houston and everyone else in their path. Oh, and that a Yankees team anchored by Judge and Soto would have a shot at multiple titles, 1990s style.

Assuming the property is willing to pay them both.

Nationals
John Soto
USA TODAY Sports

Although Hal Steinbrenner isn’t Steve Cohen, let alone Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, when it comes to net worth, the family-run Yankees are still worth $6 billion (and closer to $7 billion in taking into account the YES network and other properties), according to Forbes. That puts their valuation nearly $2 billion higher than the Dodgers and $3.35 billion higher than the Mets, and those teams commit more to the payroll than the $250 million Yankees. , according to Spotrac.

Steinbrenner said in the spring that it’s his responsibility every year “to make sure we’re fiscally responsible.” I have a lot of partners, banks, bondholders and things like that that I answer to. But at the same time, it’s always the goal to win a championship.

If that’s the goal, landing Soto at the dawn of his prime is the ultimate slam dunk. Soto is not Kevin Durant, who turns 34 on opening night in the fall. But he’s good enough to be a franchise player long after Judge, Stanton and Cole started to decline.

And given the value of the Yankees, it shouldn’t be a choice between Judge and Soto, although the latter would represent one hell of an insurance policy in case the former goes into free agency. Judge got a contract far north of the seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer he rejected in the spring, and Steinbrenner is expected to give it to him.

The owner would then have two years to figure out how to pay Soto an estimated $500 million more, assuming the outfielder continues to play the way he plays.

So if Cashman and Rizzo can agree on the value of the All-Star, Steinbrenner should be prepared to eat Patrick Corbin’s contract and sacrifice the payroll balance that Yankees prospects provide in their first years on the listing.

In the end, as unfair as it might be to forever compare Steinbrenner to his father, a flawed man and leader, there’s no doubt George Steinbrenner would do here. He would add Soto to Judge just like he added Alex Rodriguez to Jeter.

Hal Steinbrenner may soon be lucky enough to cash a really big check, or two, and whether he does or not will tell us a lot about him.

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