As caretaker of a special team in 1998, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman correctly stated at the trade deadline that he could win a title without giving Seattle what they wanted for Randy Johnson. Cashman is now facing similar circumstances with Nationals and Juan Soto, but this time the conversation is tougher to take.
In 1998, Cashman knew that the core Yankees could win everything without Johnson, because they had done it two years earlier. GM has no such source of comfort this summer. His team has not won the big one since 2009, and given the history and expectations that define the franchise, the championship “drought” feels about as long as the Jets (January 1969) and Knicks (May 1973).
Cashman has seen everything in his quarter century at work, and honestly I do not think we will learn much about him between now and at. 18.00 on 2 August. He is highly qualified to decide if a prospect-plus package with the headline of Anthony Volpe is a price worth paying for Soto. But if GM enters into a temporary relationship with his Washington colleague, Mike Rizzo, I think we will learn something about Hal Steinbrenner.
As in, how strongly the Yankees owner wants to win.
Yes, of course, everyone wants to win. But there is a huge difference between saying you want to win and acting like you need to win. Steinbrenner’s decision to approve a Soto acquisition and the potential half-billion dollar contract coming after 2024 – on top of a potential monster contract for Aaron Judge and existing monster deals for Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton – will identify what camp he’s in.
Beforehand, understand that hiring the 23-year-old Soto for three races after the season 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 central cast as an extremely talented Jersey Boy who idolized Derek Jeter.
But measuring his upside requires some educated guesswork. There is no educated guess with Soto, who at Volpe’s current age had already delivered a 34-homer, 110-RBI season in the majors and a three-homer, seven-RBI performance in a winning World Series. Soto needs to run just four more balls over the fence to have more home runs before his 24th birthday than another slugger who made a loud entry into the sport at the age of 19. A boy named Mickey Mantle.
Soto would be something with the right-wing porch in the Bronx. He also pulls more trips than anyone in baseball, giving him a better career at base (0.427) than Mantle or Mike Trout. And the fact that he could absorb a long media frenzy about the reported $ 15-year-old, $ 440 million Nationals offer he turned down, only to win the Home Run Derby hours later, suggests… well… what else on his resume suggests:
That the Yankees (64-28) with Soto would be an almost death-and-treasure lock in the postseason to beat Houston and everyone else in their way. Oh, and that a Yankees team anchored by Judge and Soto would have a chance to win more titles, 1990s style.
Provided the owner is willing to pay them both.
Although Hal Steinbrenner is no Steve Cohen, do not worry Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, when it comes to net worth, the family-run Yankees are still worth $ 6 billion (and close to $ 7 billion when you include the YES network and other properties ), according to Forbes. That puts their valuation at nearly $ 2 billion more than the Dodgers and $ 3.35 billion more than the Mets, and those teams are committing more to salaries than the Yankees’ $ 250 million, according to Spotrac.
Steinbrenner said this spring that it is his responsibility every year “to make sure that we are financially responsible. I have many partners and banks and bondholders and things like that that I respond to. But at the same time, the goal is always to win a championship. “
If that’s the goal, landing Soto at the beginning of its prime is the ultimate slam dunk. Soto is not Kevin Durant, who will be 34 years old on the opening night this autumn. But he’s good enough to be a franchise player long after Judge, Stanton and Cole start rejecting.
And given the Yankees’ value, this should not be an either-or conversation between Judge and Soto, even if the latter would represent a hell of an insurance policy in case the former bolts into free action. Judge has earned a contract far north of the seven-year extension offer of $ 213.5 million he turned down this spring, and Steinbrenner should give him that.
The owner will then have two years to figure out how to pay Soto around $ 500 million on top of that, provided the outside player continues to play the way he plays.
So if Cashman and Rizzo can agree on All-Star’s value, Steinbrenner should be willing to eat Patrick Corbin’s contract and sacrifice the salary balance that Yankees prospects provide in the first years on the roster.
Finally, no matter how unfair it may be to forever compare Steinbrenner to his father, a flawed husband and leader, there is no doubt about what George Steinbrenner would have done here. He wanted to add Soto to Judge just as he once added Alex Rodriguez to Jeter.
Hal Steinbrenner may soon have the chance to pick up a very large check, or two, and whether he does or not will tell us an incredible amount about him.