Juan Soto’s former skipper has no doubt he would thrive with Yankees

Juan Soto’s former skipper has no doubt he would thrive with Yankees

NASHVILLE — While there is a ton of uncertainty surrounding Juan Soto’s future, his former manager is sure that the Padres superstar would thrive beneath the bright lights of New York City.

With the Yankees in pursuit of Soto, more than a few New York-based reporters attended Dave Martinez’s press conference at the Winter Meetings on Monday. The Nationals skipper managed Soto from 2018-2022, so all wanted to know if Martinez feels Soto is built for the Bronx.

“No,” Martinez said when asked if he has any doubt that Soto could handle New York.

When asked why, Martinez went on to say, “He loves to play the game of baseball. I’ll tell you a story: first time I ever met him, I just asked him, ‘What motivates you, what drives you to be [great]?’ And the first thing he says is, ‘I love baseball. That’s all I want to do.’

“So he’ll handle it very well.”

Of course, it remains to be seen if the Yankees will acquire Soto from the Padres, who want a ransom in return for the 25-year-old outfielder.

The Athletic’s Brendan Kuty reported that San Diego asked for as many as eight players from the Yankees in return for Soto and Trent Grisham, another outfielder. Meanwhile, Michael King and Clarke Schmidt, members of the Yankees’ rotation, and pitching prospect Drew Thorpe have come up frequently in rumors and reports.

Soto is a superstar, but the lefty swinger also comes with just a year of control and is projected to make $33 million in arbitration this offseason. A Scott Boras client, he will likely test free agency next winter, so the Yankees don’t want to part with too much for what amounts to a rental.

Soto declined a 15-year, $440 million deal from the Nationals in 2022 before they shipped him to San Diego. The Padres surrendered a haul in that deal, trading Robert Hassell, Jarlin Susana, James Wood, CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore and Luke Voit.

“Looking at it now? I think we did all right,” Martinez said of the return Washington received, though he joked that he would love to have Soto back.

Soto had more years of control when the Padres acquired him, so they can’t expect an equal return on their investment. However, San Diego needs to rebuild a rotation that’s been thinned by free agency, and trading Soto could do that while shedding some salary.

While the Yankees likely won’t agree to the Padres’ initial demands, they have the pitchers and the financial might to line up a trade. The division rival Blue Jays have also been mentioned as a potential suitor, but that could just be an attempt to scare the Yankees into caving.

Wherever Soto ends up, Martinez will be rooting him on. He knows first-hand the impact that Soto can have, which is why Yankees fans are clamoring for a deal, even if the price is steep.

“I love him,” Martinez said. “I said this since I’ve known the kid. I love him. He’s a competitor. He’s one of the purest hitters in the game. He’s a game-changer. I’ve always wished him the best. Whoever does get him, if San Diego decides to keep him, they know they got a good one. But wherever he ends up, they’re going to get a good player.”

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