Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spoke with the media this week and addressed various topics. Notably, he downplayed the possibility of an extension for either outfielder Juan Soto or infielder Gleyber Torres, both of whom are impending free agents. He also indicated it’s still possible for roster additions, with pitching a likely target area.
“The odds are this is a one-year situation,” Cashman said about Soto, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. “I don’t see too many things stopping him from reaching free agency.” That assessment of the situation tracks with publicly-available information, as well as logic. Soto is just 25 years old but already has six years of elite production in the major leagues. Most free agents don’t reach free agency until they are around 30 years old but Soto is on track to get there around his 26th birthday, which will be at the end of October.
Despite his youth, he’s already hit 160 home runs in 779 career games, while also drawing walks more often than he strikes out. He’s hit .284/.421/.524 overall for a wRC+ of 154 and has never posted a wRC+ lower than 143 in any individual season. That combination of youth and talent has long made it seem as though a trip to free agency would be fairly inevitable. While with the Nationals in 2022, Soto reportedly rejected a $440MM extension offer, which is what led to him being dealt to the Padres.
The Yankees sent five players to the Padres this winter to get Soto and Trent Grisham, likely knowing full well that it was probably going to be a one-year proposition, with Cashman’s comments today reflecting that. Now that Soto has moved closer to free agency, his earning power has only increased since he turned down that $440MM offer, making the odds of keeping him from the open market even lower. The Yanks will have a chance to bring him back via free agency, but they will have to compete with the other clubs around the league in what is sure to be a hotly contested market.
As for Torres, it was reported back in November that the club had not engaged Torres on any extension talks. The infielder even replied “I wish” when asked about the possibility. Cashman confirmed to Greg Joyce of The New York Post this week that the club has not had any extension talks with him. Torres has been a solid player for the Yanks, hitting 123 home runs in his 734 contests thus far. His .267/.334/.454 batting line translates to a 116 wRC+. His defense at second base has been passable at times, though it was graded poorly last year.
While he’s set to be a key piece of the 2024 club, the Yanks likely feel they can pivot to a post-Torres era fairly easily. Oswald Peraza was still considered a top 100 prospect before he exhausted his rookie status last year, but he’s blocked from his natural shortstop position by Anthony Volpe. Peraza still has one option year remaining and could perhaps take over the keystone when Torres hits free agency. They also have multi-positional guys like Oswaldo Cabrera and DJ LeMahieu who could factor in at that spot.
As for the rest of the roster, Cashman said that it’s not “pencils down,” per Brendan Kuty of The Athletic. “I guess it’s always pitching,” he added about a concerning area. The Yankees project to have a rotation of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt. That’s a good rotation if healthy but that’s a big “if” as each of Rodón, Cortes and Stroman missed significant time last year. The club also subtracted from their depth when they included four possible starting pitchers in the Soto deal.
Adding to that group would be sensible but the finances may be tight. Roster Resource has the club’s competitive balance tax number at $307MM right now, well beyond the top tier of $297MM. As a third-time payor at that level, any additional spending comes with a 110% tax. Since they have five rotation spots allocated and they effectively have to pay double on any future signings, they may stick to depth signings on minor league deals, though a significant injury can always change that calculus.