MLB Winter Meetings Day 3 recap: Yankees acquire Juan Soto in blockbuster deal

Major League Baseball's annual winter meetings wrapped up Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee, with a bang.

No, Shohei Ohtani didn't sign with a team, but Juan Soto was traded in a blockbuster deal.

The Yankees acquired the All-Star outfielder from the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitchers Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Randy Vasquez, Jhony Brito and catcher Kyle Higashioka.

For Ohtani, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays still appear as the co-favorites for baseball’s two-way star, but the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels still remain in the picture. Ohtani is expected to make his decision by the weekend.

Here's a look back at Wednesday's news:

Shohei Ohtani dominated the talk at the Winter Meetings again Tuesday, but still remains a free agent.
Shohei Ohtani dominated the talk at the Winter Meetings again Tuesday, but still remains a free agent.

Eduardo Rodriguez agrees to $80M deal with Diamondbacks

Free agent pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez agreed to a four-year, $80 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to a person with knowledge of the deal, cashing in after opting out of his contract with the Detroit Tigers.

The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale on the condition of anonymity because the signing wasn't yet official.

The left-hander joins the National League champions' rotation that already features Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, forming a formidable front three in Phoenix.

– Jesse Yomtov

Yankees land Juan Soto in blockbuster trade with Padres

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The New York Yankees came to the winter meetings Sunday with a look of desperation, and a fear that their greatness was on the verge of being as outdated as the white pages.

By Wednesday night, they were back to being those old-school Yankees, for whom money is no object.

The Yankees acquired All-Star right fielder Juan Soto and Gold Glove winner Trent Grisham from the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitchers Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Randy Vasquez, Jhony Brito and catcher Kyle Higashioka.

It was an awfully steep price, but in the end, the Yankees simply decided they couldn’t afford to be without Soto if they want to win their first World Series championship since 2009.

– Bob Nightengale

Diamondbacks hope to bolster rotation

NASHVILLE, Ten.. — Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen sounds optimistic that he will be able to find the starter he needs to add depth to a rotation that already includes Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt.

The club is known to have made a run at right-hander Sonny Gray before he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Diamondbacks reportedly have shown interest in right-handers Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo and Lucas Giolito.

“I'm confident that we are going to work very hard to make something come to fruition,” Hazen said. “When you’re talking about both the free-agent market and the trade market, you’re at the mercy of the other teams in a lot of cases. But I think there is starting pitching that is going to be out there.”

– Nick Piecoro, Arizona Republic

Mets owner Steve Cohen went to Japan to meet with Yoshinobu Yamamoto

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and president of baseball operations David Stearns went to Japan before the winter meetings to speak with free agent pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto and his family.

A 25-year-old right-hander, Yamamoto was 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA this season for the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League, striking out 169 and walking 28 in 164 innings. Major League Baseball teams have until Jan. 4 to sign him.

“Clearly when you’re in the middle of a big free agent pursuit, every club’s going to meet with him,” Stearns said. “I try not to look at it as selling and I try to look at it as as providing information about who we are as an organization and what we want to do and what we want to become.”

– Associated Press

DAY 2 RECAP: What you missed from MLB Hot Stove

Yadier Molina joins Cardinals front office as a special assistant

Yadier Molina will remain with the St. Louis Cardinals as a special assistant to John Mozeliak, their president of baseball operations, after the longtime catcher wrapped up his 19-year big league career in 2022.

The 41-year-old Molina was a 10-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner who played all 2,224 games of his career for St. Louis. That included 2,184 games behind the plate, the most by any catcher for one team in major league history.

“We are excited to welcome Yadi back to the St. Louis Cardinals,” Mozeliak said in a statement. “He will provide invaluable help at the major league level, as well as spend time with our minor league teams in his new role with the team.”

Molina trails only Stan Musial, who played 22 seasons for St. Louis, for the most with the club. Along the way, he helped the Cardinals reach four World Series and win championships in 2006 and 2011. His longevity coupled with the success of those Cardinals teams are a big reason why he retired as their career postseason leader in hits (102) and games played (104).

Molina, a fourth-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2000 first-year player draft, served as the manager of Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in 2023. He also managed Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela.

– Associated Press

Juan Soto to the Yankees? Momentum building towards trade

NASHVILLE, Tenn. − The San Diego Padres and New York Yankees are nearing a blockbuster deal the would send All-Star outfielder Juan Soto to the Bronx, and although a trade has not been finalized, two persons with direct knowledge of the talks said Wednesday there is significant momentum.

The persons spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing.

Scott Boras, Soto’s agent, said Wednesday that he has not been informed by the Padres that a deal is on the verge of being finalized, but has no doubts that Soto would thrive with the Yankees.

“The handful of times that Juan has played at Yankee Stadium in his career,’’ Boras said, “Juan has enjoyed the experience. I think anytime you have a 1.200 or 1.300 OPS anywhere, you enjoy it.

Soto has played in just seven games at Yankee Stadium in his career, but has a 1.219 OPS, hitting .261 with four homers and nine RBI in 23 at-bats, including a .393 on-base percentage and .826 slugging percentage.

– Bob Nightengale

Joe Castiglione wins Ford Frick Award

Joe Castiglione’s voice has provided the soundtrack for Boston Red Sox baseball from Yaz to Yoshida. And Castiglione’s deft narration for four decades of heartbreak and high points will earn him enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Castiglione was named the winner of the Ford Frick Award on Wednesday, and he will be honored next July by baseball’s Hall of Fame. Castiglione has called Red Sox games on the radio since 1983, which was Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski’s final season in Boston. His voice carried through some dank times in the franchise’s history until a sustained period of excellence began in the late 1990s until the club broke through in 2004, with its first World Series title since 1918.

Known as “Joe C.” to ardent Red Sox fans, Castiglione’s radio career began with Cleveland and Milwaukee between 1979-82. He was chosen by a committee over fellow finalists Joe Buck, Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Tom Hamilton, Ernie Johnson Sr., Ken Korach, Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper and Dan Shulman.

– Gabe Lacques

Bryce Harper open to extending Phillies contract behind 2031

Bryce Harper’s agent says the Philadelphia Phillies star would be willing to accept a contract that goes beyond the expiration of his current deal in 2031.

Harper agreed to a $330 million, 13-year contract ahead of the 2019 season and agent Scott Boras has spoken with Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski about Harper’s preference.

“Bryce certainly has expressed to them that he wants to end his career in Philadelphia. I’ve certainly told Dave that I think Bryce is a franchise player,” Boras said Wednesday at the winter meetings. “He wants to work out an extension.”

– Associated Press

Orioles sign reliever Craig Kimbrel to one-year deal

The Baltimore Orioles have been heavily engaged in pursuing pitchers this winter, particularly for a back-end reliever who can fill-in for All-Star closer Felix Bautista, who is set to miss the 2024 season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.

They have found a resolution with free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel, who signed a one-year, $13 million deal, the Orioles announced on Wednesday.

Kimbrel, who turns 36 next May, is a nine-time All-Star that spent last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, appearing in 71 games with 32 saves. His 417 career saves ranks 8th all-time, three behind Kenley Jansen and five behind Billy Wagner.

– Scott Boeck

Red Sox trade Alex Verdugo to Yankees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox swung a trade for only the eighth time in the last 54 years Tuesday night with the Yankees acquiring outfielder Alex Verdugo for three pitching prospects.

The trade not only gives the Yankees a veteran outfielder they badly need, but this could put the pressure on the San Diego Padres to lower their asking price for All-Star Juan Soto.

Yes, according to a high-ranking Yankees executive, the Yankees still want Soto. The executive spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions.

The Yankees are sending right-handed pitchers Richard Fitts, Greg Weissert and Nicholas Judice to the Red Sox for Verdugo.

– Bob Nightengale

Dodgers, Blue Jays the front-runners for Shohei Ohtani

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The mystery and secrecy of the Shohei Ohtani free-agent sweepstakes was finally lifted Tuesday with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays emerging as the co-favorites for baseball’s biggest star, while the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels still remain in the picture.

The Chicago Cubs, who were in the mix early in the sweepstakes, now appear to be out after balking at Ohtani’s price tag of 10 years and at least $500 million, according to one high-ranking Cubs official.

The official spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of negotiations.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was later scolded by his bosses, said the Dodgers met with Ohtani at Dodger Stadium for a few hours late last week. They were the first team to acknowledge a private meeting with Ohtani. The two-time MVP also recently met with the Blue Jays and Giants, but their team officials have declined to confirm that.

– Bob Nightengale

Ranking MLB's top free agents

Major League Baseball awaits the dual impact of one player’s decision: Shohei Ohtani.

Check out the full breakdown of MLB's top 89 free agents for 2023-24:

  1. SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, Angels

  2. SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Orix Buffaloes, Japan

  3. SP Blake Snell, Padres

  4. OF/1B Cody Bellinger, Cubs

  5. SP Aaron Nola, Phillies – SIGNED with Phillies

  6. SP Sonny Gray, Twins – SIGNED with Cardinals

  7. RP Josh Hader, Padres

  8. 3B Matt Chapman, Blue Jays

  9. SP Jordan Montgomery, Cardinals

  10. SP Eduardo Rodriguez, Tigers

  11. SP Marcus Stroman, Cubs

  12. OF/DH Jorge Soler, Marlins

  13. OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Diamondbacks

  14. DH J.D. Martinez, Dodgers

  15. OF Teoscar Hernandez, Mariners

– Gabe Lacques

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB Winter Meetings Day 3 recap: Yankees acquire Juan Soto