As special team caretaker in 1998, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman correctly bet on the trade deadline that he could win the title without giving Seattle what he wanted for Randy Johnson. Cashman is now facing similar circumstances with the Nationals and Juan Soto, only this time it will be harder to make the challenge.
In 1998, Cashman knew the mainstream Yankees could win it all without Johnson because they had done it two years earlier. GM has no such source of comfort this summer. His team hasn’t won a major tournament since 2009, and given the history and expectations that define the franchise, this championship drought seems to be as long as the Jets (January 1969) and Knicks (May 1973).
Cashman has seen it all in his quarter-century career, and frankly, I don’t think we’ll know much about him before 6pm on August 2nd. The package, titled Anthony Volpe, is a price worth paying for Soto. But if the CEO does come to terms with his Washington colleague Mike Rizzo, I think we’ll learn something about Hal Steinbrenner.
Like how badly the owner of the Yankees 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 on whether to approve the Soto acquisition and a potential half-billion-dollar contract after 2024 – on top of a potential giant contract for Aaron Judge and existing monstrous deals for Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton – will determine which camp he falls into. .
First of all, understand that using the 23-year-old Soto for just three post-season runs would be worth pretty much everything Rizzo could ask for. Now, in the Double-A Ball tournament, 21-year-old Wolpe could be the Yankees’ long-term shortstop from central casting as a supremely talented Jersey boy who idolized Derek Jeter.
But measuring its potential requires some educated guesses. There is no plausible speculation about Soto, who by his current age, Volpe has already had a season with 34 homers, 110 RBIs in the majors and a three-homer, seven RBI performance in a World Series winning streak. Soto only needs four more shots over the fence to hit more home runs before his 24th birthday than another batter who entered the sport loudly at 19. A guy named Mickey Mantle.
Soto would be like a porch on the right hand side in the Bronx. He also makes more moves than anyone in baseball, which gives him a better on-base percentage (.427) than Mantle or Mike Trout. And the fact that he was able to withstand lengthy media scrutiny about the Nationals’ claimed 15-year offer and the $440 million he turned down, and then win the Home Run Derby hours later suggests…well…what everything else in his summary:
That the Yankees (64-28) with Soto will be on the brink of death and taxes in the postseason to beat Houston and everyone else in their path. Oh, and that the Yankees team led by Judge and Soto would have a chance to win some 1990s-style titles.
Assuming ownership is willing to pay both of them.
While Hal Steinbrenner is no Steve Cohen, let alone Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, when it comes to net worth, the Yankee family is still worth $6 billion (and closer to $7 billion when you factor in the YES network and other properties). according to Forbes. That makes their valuation nearly $2 billion more than the Dodgers and $3.35 billion more than the Mets, and those teams are committing more to payroll than the Yankees’ $250 million, according to Spotrac.
In the spring, Steinbrenner said that every year he has to “make sure we are financially accountable. I have many partners, banks, bondholders and the like to whom I answer. But at the same time, the goal is always to win the 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 at the premiere this fall. But he’s good enough to remain a franchise player long after Judge, Stanton, and Cole start to back out.
And given the value of the Yankees, it shouldn’t be an either/or issue between Judge and Soto, even though the latter would be a hell of an insurance policy in case the former breaks free. Judge got a contract way north of the seven-year, $213.5 million renewal offer he turned down in the spring, and Steinbrenner has to give it to him.
The owner will then have two years to figure out how to pay Soto about $500 million on top of that, assuming the outfielder continues to play the way he plays.
So if Cashman and Rizzo can agree on All-Star value, Steinbrenner should be willing to eat up Patrick Corbin’s contract and sacrifice the payroll that Yankee prospects provided in the early years on the roster.
After all, as unfair as it is forever to compare Steinbrenner to his father, an imperfect man and leader, there is no doubt what George Steinbrenner would have done here. He would add Soto to the referee the same way he once added Alex Rodriguez to Jeter.
Hal Steinbrenner may soon get a chance to get a very big check or two, and whether he gets it or not will tell us an awful lot about him.
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