National

The Yankees have added Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo. Here's everything else they need

The New York Yankees finally pulled off the trade everyone had been waiting for Wednesday, with a seven-player deal that landed them former San Diego Padres star Juan Soto.

In Soto, the Yankees are getting a 25-year-old slugger for whom most precedents are in the inner circle of the Hall of Fame. It remains to be seen if they will make the very expensive move of signing Soto long-term, but for now, the team has its newest star.

The only other notable move the Yankees have made this offseason is a trade for Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, another left-handed corner outfielder who now projects as a depth piece for the team rather than a regular starter.

So you're the Yankees. You went 82-80 last season and finished six games short of a playoff spot, as well as 19 games shy of the Al East crown. You have added two corner outfielders. You probably have more work to do.

Going off Baseball Reference's calculations, Soto has averaged 4.8 WAR per 162 games in his career, while Verdugo was worth an average of about 2.1 each year he was with the Red Sox. Given that the Yankees were relying on some very replacement-level options for their corner outfield spot opposite Aaron Judge, such as Estevan Florial and Oswaldo Cabrera, those additions could be seen as adding roughly seven wins to the Yankees' total for 2024.

Of course, that number shouldn't be seen as a precise estimate. It just goes to show that the Yankees' needs go beyond left field. They entered this offseason in need of a massive shakeup, and the Soto and Verdugo acquisitions will be worth it only if they're Step 1 of something.

Here's where else the Yankees need work if they want to be a credible threat in the AL East in 2024:

Center field

Where they are now: It's still pretty dicey. Judge, Soto and Verdugo are all quality outfielders, but the idea of any them in center field should cause concern for the Yankees. Judge is the one with the most recent experience at the position, but he is a) 31 years old, b) playing on a $360 million contract and c) coming off a significant toe injury. Still, Judge in center appears to be the plan for now.

As part of Wednesday's trade, the Yankees also acquired Trent Grisham, a two-time Gold Glover in center who leaves a lot to be desired with the bat. The past two seasons, Grisham hit .191/.300/.347 in more than 1,000 plate appearances. He could be New York's defensive replacement in center going forward, but considering that he's another lefty behind Soto and Verdugo, it might make more sense to try to trade him again.

The Yankees' other option is Florial, who has hit .209/.313/.296 so far in his MLB career. And this might be a concern for only a few months, as the one caveat to this being a true position of need is the presence of Jasson Domínguez, a top-100 prospect who can play center and is supposed to be ready at midseason after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Domínguez isn't a sure thing, but he gives the team a reason to believe it might not have to splurge.

Whom they could sign: If you want to go wild, Cody Bellinger is there for the taking. The free agent is coming off a resurgent season with the Chicago Cubs and obviously has big-market experience. The Yankees are also reportedly interested in Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee.

On the other hand, the Yankees might not want to load up on enormous outfield contracts with Soto's payday a year away and Judge and Giancarlo Stanton already around, especially with Domínguez and other prospects such as Spencer Jones waiting in the wings.

After Bellinger, the field is, well ... do you like defense? Because if you do, Kevin Kiermaier is still very good at it and is a career. .279/.338/.510 hitter at Yankee Stadium. Beyond him, there are names such as Michael A. Taylor and the familiar Harrison Bader out there, plus a potential trade for Manuel Margot, which would all follow a theme of improving defense and hoping the bat is at least replacement-level.

Rotation

Where they are now: Starting pitching was actually looking decent for the Yankees entering this offseason, but some of the arms sent away in the Soto trade leave the group significantly lacking behind Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole.

Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodón were both ineffective and hurt last season. Clarke Schmidt went wire-to-wire in the rotation in 2023 but with a 4.64 ERA that was below league average even when adjusting for park. Luis Severino and Frankie Montas have both hit free agency. Michael King and Jhony Brito were both acceptable rotation options who are now Padres. Clayton Beeter is probably the prospect closest to the majors.

A rotation of Cole, Cortes, Rodón, Schmidt and Beeter cannot be credibly expected to get it done in 2024. The Yankees need at least one quality starter and probably another one or two for depth.

Whom they could sign: Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a 25-year-old right-hander who looms as the best pitching prospect Japan has ever produced. The good news here is the Yankees have a meeting set up with him. The bad news is every other financial heavy-hitter is in on him, and some of them might need Yamamoto even more than the Yankees. The price for him is starting to look like it will be closer to $300 million than $200 million.

Another premium option is old friend Jordan Montgomery, whom the Yankees drafted in 2014 and traded away in 2022. Montgomery is coming off a star turn in the Texas Rangers' World Series run and also won't be cheap, but bringing him back would probably be a popular move among Yankees fans.

The mid-tier options and buy-low candidates in the pitching pool are also plentiful, with names such as Marcus Stroman, Michael Wacha, Lucas Giolito, Seth Lugo, Michael Lorenzen and Sean Manaea all still out there.

Corner infield

Where they are now: The Yankees currently have Anthony Rizzo at first base and DJ LeMahieu at third, but those might not be the best guys to depend on in 2024. Rizzo is 34 and LeMahieu 35, and they're both at the age where you can't expect them to be both good and healthy for an extended period of time. Of the two, Rizzo might be the best bet for the Yankees to stick with. He hit .304 through May 28 last year, which is when the Yankees believe he sustained a concussion. After that, he hit .172 through Aug. 1, and two days later they shut him down due to post-concussion syndrome.

Their backup corner-infield options in 2023, Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, are both free agents now, and the Yankees are unlikely to re-sign either. Donaldson hit under .150 for the Yankees and struggled with injuries before he was released in August. Kiner-Falefa can play pretty much wherever you need him to, but his average took a dip last year, and he rarely walks or homers (or even doubles).

Whom they could sign: The right way to go here is not to seek out youth but to find a veteran to fill that hole. Free agents Justin Turner and Gio Urshela should be at the top of the Yankees' list. Turner is 39 but played in 148 games last season, hitting .276/.345/.555 with 23 homers and 31 doubles. His numbers have been roughly the same for the past three seasons (hello, consistency), and he'd give the Yankees tremendous positional flexibility.

Urshela, who was a Yankee from 2019 through 2021, played just 74 games last season due to a fractured pelvis, but he has been doing well in his time away from New York. He hit just under .300 before the injury last year and hit .285 over 144 games with the Twins in 2022. He doesn't have a ton of power, but the Yankees already know that.

Bullpen depth

Where they are now: Although the Yankees said goodbye to reliever Michael King as part of the Soto trade, their bullpen is still pretty good and full of guys with sub-3.00 ERAs who could play a role for them in 2024.

They still have Clay Holmes, their closer who saved 24 games last year and made 66 total appearances with a 2.86 ERA. Wandy Peralta and Ian Hamilton were both workhorses, pitching 54 and 58 innings, respectively. Hamilton has the added advantage of being a long reliever — 20 of his 39 appearances were longer than one inning, and 14 of them were at least two innings.

This is a bullpen that is already pretty good (judging by last year's numbers), but a team can never have enough relief arms.

Whom they could sign: If the Yankees are interested in a big splash, they could go after Josh Hader. He had a 1.28 ERA and 33 saves for the Padres in 2023, but he's interested in just one position: closer. If the Yankees were to sign him, they'd have to demote Holmes from his current role, but it could be worth it.

A slightly less splashy move would be Hector Neris, who spent the past two seasons as the Astros' setup man. He had a 1.71 ERA in 2023 and is capable of closing (which he did for several years in Philly). He's actually capable of pitching anywhere the Yankees need him to, and given tha he's not exclusively a closer, his price should be more affordable than Hader's.

If the Yankees decide they need to focus on their rotation or another area, Neris could be a good option, but they could also decide to snag someone such as Jakob Junis or Matt Moore. Both are a little further down on the free-agent ladder and could act as cheaper reinforcements for an already solid bullpen.