Yankees' Juan Soto trade opens hot stove floodgates: MLB Winter Meetings winners, losers

It was a bore that ended with a bang. And now that Juan Soto is a New York Yankee, baseball’s winter meetings largely served their purpose: To pave the way for what should be a wild week or two of player movement.

Soto’s trade from the San Diego Padres to the Yankees, finalized late Wednesday night, culminated roughly a week’s worth of negotiations and settled the second-most significant piece of offseason business.

Shohei Ohtani – you’re up.

The greatest free agent in baseball history was not seen in Nashville, even as a jumpy media corps and ravenous fans made sure he was plenty heard. He’ll get his half-billion dollars soon enough.

For now, let’s break down the winners and losers from three-ish days in Music City:

The Yankees will be Juan Soto's third team in three seasons.
The Yankees will be Juan Soto's third team in three seasons.



They’ll certainly sell some tickets. Juan Soto and Aaron Judge hitting back-to-back is punishing just to think about. A healthy Giancarlo Stanton rounding out that power trio would be the most visually imposing middle of the order of almost anyone’s lifetime.

And if Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the fabulous pitcher from Japan, is next to join the crew, it’s already an absurdly fantastic winter.

Yet the Yankees will still be looking over their shoulder, hoping their usual potholes don’t swallow them up.

As great as Soto and Yamamoto are, contention in the American League East and the playoffs still probably relies on the health and effectiveness of left-hander Carlos Rodon. Michael King, shipped to San Diego in the package, was going to be a huge part of the pitching staff, either in rotation or in what’s now a sketchier bullpen, although market reinforcements are available. Ohtani may well end up in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays, meaning the Yankees are playing for third place on paper by Opening Day.

And the Yankees will likely have a Soto-sized hole in the lineup by next year, simply because he’s a free agent. But hey, they spent a lot of money and won some headlines and GM Brian Cashman’s job is probably safe for another decade, regardless of the statistical likelihood that October delivers yet another crushing blow.

Shohei Ohtani

Sure, maybe the two-way superstar spent the week as the protagonist in a remake of The Man Who Wasn’t There. But Ohtani didn’t have to show up in Opryland to make an impact.

And there were enough smoke signals to indicate he’s going to do just fine.

The man inspired subterfuge from the Toronto Blue Jays, who refused to reveal GM Ross Atkins’ location, placing him in front of a plain white wall for a Zoom call after a likely meeting with Ohtani. (You think fans are being held hostage by this saga? Imagine Atkins).

He inspired a rare jolt of honesty from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (more on that in a bit), and some righteous indignation from Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, who refused to believe Chicago was on the periphery of the chase.

In short: Meetings have been held. Desire is high. The industry is perched in anticipation. The man is going to get well north of $500 million, it seems, all without having to step inside a sprawling biodome of kitsch on the outskirts of Nashville.

Pretty good week!

Dave Roberts

Faced with yet another cloak-and-dagger inquiry on Ohtani, the Dodgers manager stared into the whirring recording devices and waiting transcriptionists and channeled his inner Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.

Here is a man who would not take it anymore.

Rather than obfuscate, Roberts stood tall for candor and tossed a big bowl of word salad on the floor and said, you’re doggone right, we did meet with Ohtani.


Sure, it might have run a bit afoul of Ohtani’s desire for total privacy in this free agent pursuit, but surely Roberts and Ohtani and agent Nez Balelo long ago realized that that private jet had already left the tarmac. And we’re pretty sure the privacy they prefer has to do with offers on the table and dollar amounts and length of deal, and not whether Ohtani had the chicken or the steak.

We’re even more certain that the world knowing that Ohtani got a private glimpse of the San Gabriel Mountains from the top of the park at Dodger Stadium on Friday won’t deter him if the Dodgers offer him all of Chavez Ravine and most of Echo Park.

So, good on Roberts for rallying to restore sanity.

Blake Snell

His name scarcely came up in Music City, but let’s be real: All but one of the handful teams in hot pursuit of Yamamoto – the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Red Sox and Blue Jays among them – are going to walk away empty-handed. Almost all those teams are facing varying degrees of desperation to improve. And their mere presence in the Yamamoto and/or Ohtani sweepstakes shows they’ve got a lot of money to burn.

In short, it’s a great time to be the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.


Juan Soto

Oh, it’s going to be fun, for sure. Even if Soto has to endure the odious and absurd questions of Whether He Can Perform in New York – it’s Juan Soto, for god’s sake – the man was largely built for that place.

But it’s also not an ideal situation for a player going into his walk year.

Soto is anything but a dead pull hitter, so the much-celebrated right field kiddie wall is not necessarily well-suited for him.  While constant interleague play has taken away some of the mystery from competing in a new league, it’s still going to be an adjustment for a career-long National League guy.

And while it’s been obvious for ages that Soto will test free agency, going to his third team in two years will invigorate another round of whether he’d stay in his latest home long term.

Soto will be fine, of course. His generational on-base skills and power will not go away, and this time next year, will probably join Ohtani as the only players to cross the half-billion dollar contract threshold. But hopping right into a World Series-or-die situation as a rental isn’t ideal.


This space would usually be reserved for a gentle chiding of GM Jerry Dipoto’s manic maneuverings that may or may not have improved the club. But today, we pause to commiserate with the Mariners’ apparently new fiscal reality.

With a chunk of ownership in their own regional sports network, they looked invulnerable to the RSN carnage changing the game’s landscape. But that equity stake took a beating when Comcast opted to move Root Sports Northwest to a higher tier of its cable packages – costing subscribers an extra $20 a month.

That will cost the club millions of dollars in passive revenue from cable viewers who simply want, say, Fox News and HGTV and not Julio Rodriguez.

With that, Dipoto can be applauded for dealing lefty Marco Gonzales and shedding one of his more moderate mistakes, the long-term deal signed by Evan White, to give Seattle some flexibility. It’s just a drag that it’s come to that for an otherwise invigorated franchise.


For the past two seasons, the A’s baseball operations department has managed to keep their business separate from that of ownership, which ordered a strip-mining of the roster while plotting an escape from Oakland. Yet now that their departure to Las Vegas is now very much, absolutely, no-doubt probably going to happen, it’s much harder to keep up the façade.

A’s GM David Forst told reporters that it’s challenging to get free agents to consider even a two-year contract, knowing that the club faces vagabond status come 2025. Manager Mark Kotsay acknowledged their 112-loss 2023 season “was challenging. Not just for myself or my staff, but for the players. I don't see that changing.”

And just to add insult to misery, the team ended up with the fourth pick in the draft lottery, even as it lost six more games than the next-worst team. Crapped out, you might say.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Juan Soto's trade to Yankees caps MLB Winter Meetings with a bang