Juan Soto might be the best hitter of his generation. Only six players have accumulated more fWAR than Soto has before hitting age 25 in the past 53 years. They are Mike Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr, and Andruw Jones. Even though Soto has another 10-15 years left in his career, he already walks with giants.
And yet, he’s been moved along twice. Treated like a burden twice. Teams can’t find another Juan Soto.
San Diego, it may not be understandable but it’s explainable. Their TV deal went away, greatly affecting their overall revenue. Their owner died and the next ones may not want to as passionately chase a first World Series championship for the Padres, though they should. The Nationals won a World Series with Soto, saw him decline one contract offer, and decided it was too much of a headache to keep him around.
Fans wait years, maybe decades, to watch a player like Soto play for their team every day. They spend the interim pointing at their rivals and saying to their buddies, “How come we never get guys like that?”
It would be a big warning sign for baseball if Rob Manfred wasn’t. Ownership didn’t think it was worth the hassle to keep all of them together. None of them are relevant now. All within a decade.
The Yankees may not keep Soto beyond this year. They may simply get outbid next winter. But at least they thought even one season of him was worth it, because Juan Sotos so rarely are available to be signed or traded for.
The fear of players reaching free agency is merely a creation, probably a creation of owners to try to manipulate fans to their side of these arguments. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with players getting to the end of their contracts and their teams simply ponying up to keep them around.
Does it guarantee the Yankees anything? Hard to say. But having a Juan Soto certainly improves the chances. It’s worth more than the handful of lottery tickets they sent west to San Diego. They don’t see Soto as a bag of bricks to carry around. Strange how that’s such a rare view these days.