Why on earth did the Red Sox give the Yankees leverage in the Juan Soto trade?

Boston may have gotten rid of a headache in Alex Verdugo, but they may have helped the Yankees land Juan Soto in the process.
Sep 26, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto (22) points to
Sep 26, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto (22) points to / Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

When the Boston Red Sox traded Alex Verdugo to the Yankees, there was definitely a bit of a surprise in both Boston and New York. These are not two teams that get together on trades very often to put it mildly. However, Verdugo has been the subject of trade rumors for a while now and there was a sense that he and the organization were often not on the same page. In short, he had become a headache for Boston and had become more valuable as a trade chip than as a player on their roster.

That isn't to say that Verdugo isn't a productive player. In fact, playing in New York is likely to boost his middling power production with that short porch in right. However, the bigger issue that isn't being talked about enough is that the Red Sox may have inadvertently helped the Yankees' negotiating position and ultimately help them land Juan Soto in the biggest move of the offseason in baseball so far.

Boston may have helped the Yankees land Juan Soto with Verdugo trade

On the surface, trading Verdugo to New York seems like it would have made it LESS likely that the Yankees would trade for Soto. The Yankees had to give up a decent, if unexciting, prospect package to land Verdugo from Boston and gave New York the lefty outfield bat that they desperately wanted. Given all of the talk about how much San Diego wanted in exchange for renting Soto for one year, there was an argument that adding Verdugo would make the Yankees less inclined to give up a mega package of prospects to land him with Verdugo in the fold.

However, that is precisely the problem. The Yankees were one of the few playoff contenders in baseball this offseason that A) had the prospects to get a Soto trade done, B) had the payroll space to add a guy that going to make $30+ million in 2024, and C) really, really wanted a strong lefty outfield bat. San Diego knew that the Yankees desperately wanted to get a deal for Soto done and rightly was asking the moon for him before the Winter Meetings.

The Yankees wouldn't budge, however, and adding Verdugo all of a sudden took the perceived desperation out of the equation. New York no longer HAD to have Soto even if they were still interested in a deal for him. At the end of the day, leverage matters and the Padres lost some once New York and Boston made their deal. As a result, it doesn't feel all that surprising or coincidental that Padres and Yankees came to terms not long after the ink had dried on the Verdugo trade.

The news is not all bad for Boston. New York still had to pay a heavy price to land Soto and their starting pitching depth took a major hit with the loss of Michael King and Drew Thorpe. Soto is also very unlikely to sign an extension with the Yankees given that he is a Scott Boras client and is a guy that is going to command a heavy premium when he hits free agency after next season.

Unfortunately, that is little solace when it comes to the 2024 season as Boston now has to deal with a Yankees team that just got one of the best hitters in baseball while wondering if they helped them get that deal done.

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