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Juan Soto traded to New York Yankees from San Diego Padres in 7-player blockbuster

NEW YORK (AP) — Juan Soto is headed to the New York Yankees in their first big move following the team’s worst season in three decades.

They hope at least one more will follow.

New York acquired Soto and Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grisham in a blockbuster trade with the cost-cutting Padres on Wednesday night. San Diego received right-handed pitchers Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez and Drew Thorpe along with catcher Kyle Higashioka.

It was the second monster deal involving the 25-year-old Soto in less than two years. The three-time All-Star slugger has one season of team control left and is likely to get a salary around $32 million after batting .275 with 35 homers, 109 RBIs and a .930 OPS in his only full season with the Padres.

San Diego obtained Soto from Washington on Aug. 2, 2022, after he turned down a $440 million, 15-year offer from the Nationals.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller said his team needed pitching and the swap gives San Diego young arms who will be with the franchise for several years.

“It’s very difficult to make a deal where we’re trading a player the caliber of Juan Soto, but if we did that we wanted to make sure we shored up a bunch of needs. We were able to get some depth, with quality,” Preller said at a late-night news conference in Nashville, Tennessee, where baseball’s winter meetings were wrapping up.

New York went 82-80 last season, narrowly avoiding its first losing record since 1992, and finished 29th among the 30 major league teams in batting average.

Soto joins a Yankees outfield that projects to have fellow All-Star Aaron Judge in center and newly acquired Alex Verdugo in the other corner. Soto has a 1.274 OPS in nine career games in the Bronx.

“Soto and Judge are Gotham’s new dynamic duo,” agent Scott Boras said.

Yankees executives will travel to California to meet Monday with free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a person familiar with the planning told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because details were not announced. The 25-year-old right-hander was 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA this season for the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League.

Soto, like Verdugo, adds a left-handed bat to a lineup that was righty heavy for several seasons. Yankees lefties had 55 homers and 171 RBIs last year while righties had 164 homers and 479 RBIs, an imbalance for a team that usually takes advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right.

“They were aggressive,” Preller said. “They had a need and Juan is an incredible player and fit the need really well. When you have two teams that line up, and you have a team that’s calling you consistently, you usually get a feel that this is something that has a chance to happen and hopefully it’s a deal that works out for both sides.”

San Diego appears to be slashing payroll by as much as $50 million after flopping last season and missing the playoffs despite World Series aspirations. The Padres also have a need for starting pitching after NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo became free agents.

Soto’s relatively young age at free agency will be comparable to that of fellow Boras client Bryce Harper, who was 26 when he signed a $330 million, 13-year contract with Philadelphia ahead of the 2019 season. In six major league seasons, Soto has a .284 batting average with 160 homers, 483 RBIs and a .946 OPS. He won a World Series title with the Nationals in 2019.

San Diego sent a bevy of promising prospects to Washington — including shortstop CJ Abrams and starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore — for Soto and first baseman Josh Bell. The Padres said the deal was worth it because they’d have Soto for three playoff runs. He helped the team reach the NL Championship Series in 2022, but the Padres underwhelmed last season despite also having stars Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Xander Bogaerts in the lineup.

While the Padres may have attempted to sign Soto to a long-term contract, Boras generally prefers to have his star clients hit the free-agent market.

“It’s great when you’re able to sign players long term, but there’s cost of doing that as well,” Preller said. “For us, the ability to add players that are controllable, that we think are going to perform well, be with us for multiple years, I think from a big-picture perspective it was a move that just opened up a lot of different avenues for us.”

King, a 28-year-old right-hander, averages 94-96 mph with his sinking fastball and had a 2.75 ERA last season while going 4-8 in nine starts and 40 relief appearances. He struck out 127 and walked 32 in 104 2/3 innings, excelling after moving from the bullpen into the rotation on Aug. 24.

King can become a free agent after the 2025 season.

Brito, who turns 26 in February, made his major league debut with the Yankees last season and went 9-7 with a 4.28 ERA and one save in 13 starts and 12 relief appearances. He struck out 72 and walked 28 in 90 1/3 innings.

Vásquez, 25, also made his big league debut this year and finished 2-2 with a 2.87 ERA in five starts and six relief outings.

Higashioka, who turns 34 in April, has spent his entire seven-year major league career with New York and batted .236 with 10 homers, 34 RBIs and a .687 OPS last season. He was a favorite batterymate of Yankees ace and 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole going back to their teenage years as teammates. Higashioka also can be a free agent next fall.

The 23-year-old Thorpe, selected in the second round of the 2022 amateur draft, was 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA at Class A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset last season. He struck out 182 and walked 38 in 139 1/3 innings.

Grisham, a two-time Gold Glove winner, batted .198 with 13 homers, 50 RBIs, 15 steals and a .666 OPS this year. He is eligible for salary arbitration and gives the Yankees a true center fielder likely to play a part-time role off the bench.

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Wilson reported from San Diego.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

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