Yankees, Padres talk Juan Soto as Cody Bellinger stays on New York’s radar

As the New York Yankees and the San Diego Padres continue talks regarding a possible deal that would send slugger Juan Soto to the Bronx, the Yankees have remained engaged with the representatives for free agent center fielder Cody Bellinger, a league source tells The Athletic. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely.

Earlier Wednesday, SNY’s Andy Martino first reported that the Yankees and Padres had been exchanging names in what could amount to a blockbuster deal for Soto, a 25-year-old lefty hitter who would bring instant power and star power to the heart of the Yankees’ order.

A source tells The Athletic that the Yankees are reluctant to surrender upper-echelon young talent in terms of prospects (such as righty starting pitcher Drew Thorpe) or recently-arrived big-leaguers (such as Jasson Domínguez and shortstop Anthony Volpe).

San Diego is believed to be targeting starting pitching that could help in the majors as soon as next season, and the Yankees could offer righty Clarke Schmidt, who’s currently in New York’s rotation, or righties Will Warren or Chase Hampton — a pair of highly regarded prospects who could reach the majors next season.

The expectation is that any team that lands Soto — if he is, in fact, traded — won’t have much of a chance to sign him to a long-term extension prior to next season, considering his agent, Scott Boras, has a history of seeking the biggest possible contracts for his stars in free agency. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Soto could earn $33 million via his final year of salary arbitration in 2024, and the Yankees are believed to be among the few teams who could absorb that kind of financial commitment in a single player while also offering quality MLB-ready or near-MLB-ready pitching in a deal.

As for Bellinger, the Yankees have so far found his asking price a bit steep, the source said, though it’s unclear exactly how much he wants, and high prices are the norm this early in the offseason. Bellinger is also repped by Boras. The Yankees, however, are said to still be plenty interested in the 28-year-old. Bellinger is coming off a big bounce-back year in which he hit .307 with 26 homers, 97 RBIs and a 133 OPS+ for the Cubs, landing 10th in the National League MVP vote. The 2017 NL Rookie of the Year winner and the 2019 NL MVP with the Dodgers, Bellinger had down years in 2021 and 2022, leading to L.A. non-tendering him.

The Athletic’s Jim Bowden predicted that Bellinger would secure a six-year, $144 million pact this winter. Bellinger’s market may better materialize once two-way star free agent Shohei Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, picks his destination.

At the GM meetings in early November, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team would be in the market this offseason for a left fielder and a center fielder. Cashman said that the team might prefer that the left fielder they acquire be able to hit lefty. Domínguez, a switch-hitter who could be their future at one of the two outfield spots, isn’t expected to return from Tommy John surgery until the summer.

(Top photo of Juan Soto: Matt Thomas / San Diego Padres / Getty Images)

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