The first major domino of this offseason fell today when the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres made a Juan Soto trade, and now this trade needs some grades.

The Yankees needed to make a splash after their self-described “disaster” of a season in 2023, and acquiring the 25-year-old superstar from the Dominican Republic will go a long way towards improving the team’s offense and returning the Yankees to the days of the Bronx Bombers. Let’s take a look at this transaction and give it instant grades for both teams.

Yankees grade: A

Juan Soto in Yankees jersey, with several mind-blown emojis in the background

The Yankees needed to make a franchise-altering move, and general manager Brian Cashman hit a grand slam with this deal. Soto is a 25-year-old superstar, who fulfills almost every need the Yankees have offensively. The Yankees struggled to get runners on base, and this is where Soto excels, with a career on-base percentage north of .400.

Teams have been able to pitch around Aaron Judge to varying degrees in the past. Those days will be over if Juan Soto is batting behind Judge. Soto’s wRC+ through his age-24 season (154) ranks among the all-time greats, sitting between Yankee legends Joe DiMaggio (148) and Mickey Mantle (164). His ranking in this metric is higher than names including Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper, Ken Griffey Jr., and Hank Aaron.

Judge is going to get more pitches to hit, and he won’t have to expand the strike zone or allow pitchers to take the bat out of his hands. Judge could make a legitimate run at breaking his own home run record, and Soto himself could see a power surge and potentially hit 40-plus homers with the short right porch in Yankee Stadium.

Soto isn’t just a great player, he is an all-time great and on track to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His name can be mentioned alongside Mike Trout, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Barry Bonds, and Ted Williams. He’s an elite hitter in both average and power, he sprays the ball to all fields, he is clutch and he walks more than he strikes out.

Soto has no history of serious injuries. He has also performed on the biggest stage, hitting for a 1.178 OPS in seven World Series games as a 19-year-old with the Washington Nationals. This is a breath of fresh air for a Yankees team that has repeatedly seen key acquisitions fail due to injuries or underperformance. Soto is at his best when the lights are brightest, as evidenced by his performance as a teenager in the World Series against a dominant Astros rotation featuring Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander.

The Yankees are also rumored to be among the frontrunners to sign Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Signing Yamamoto will help the Yankees to offset the loss of Michael King, and having Soto on board will only serve to make the Yankees a more enticing destination for Yamamoto. 

As much as the Yankees gave up, it’s important to remember what they didn’t give up. They were able to keep Jasson Dominguez, Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells, Spencer Jones, Gleyber Torres, Chase Hampton, and Roderick Arias. 

The only thing holding this back from being an A+ is that Soto is a one-year rental right now and could potentially leave after the season in free agency. The Yankees hope that having Soto experience what it is like to wear the pinstripes and play in the Bronx for a year will give them an advantage in re-signing him. 

Padres grade: B-

The Padres made the best of a very difficult situation. Any time you are trading away a top-five player in all of baseball, it is going to hurt, and will be difficult to earn a good grade for that transaction. 

Everybody knew that the Padres needed to clear salary and that Soto was the most obvious player to move. San Diego is also losing most of their starting pitching, and in addition to being a one-year rental, Soto is in line to earn more than $30 million in arbitration this season. There are very few teams who have pitching assets to give up, who are in a position to contend, and who have the financial resources to absorb a $30 million addition to their roster.

The Padres had limited options, but they did an excellent job of playing their cards right to create as much leverage as they could and use that to maximize their return.

AJ Preller started by asking for the world. Talks briefly stalled and then picked back up at a more reasonable asking price. Preller knew that Cashman was under pressure to make a major deal and shake things up, and he leveraged that to make Cashman give up more than he otherwise would have been willing to. 

The Padres could have held out for longer in hopes that another team, or teams, may have gotten involved after missing out on Shohei Ohtani. The Yankees couldn’t take the risk of losing out on the opportunity to acquire Soto, and Preller made sure that Cashman paid a bit of a premium to acquire Soto before other teams made serious offers. Losing Drew Thorpe and especially Michael King hurts for New York, but that is the price of acquiring a superstar who is just entering the prime of his career.

The bottom line: A fair deal, well played by both sides

Both teams needed to get this deal done, and both front offices played their hands excellently. The Yankees lost some pieces that will sting, but that is part of negotiating. In order to acquire a superstar you have to give up something of value.