Former Padres Teammate Know Why Juan Soto ‘Happier’ With Yankees

Juan Soto is putting together an incredible season and his relationship with New York Yankees captain Aaron Judge is part of the equation.
Jun 2, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Juan Soto (right) celebrates with center fielder Aaron Judge (99) after hitting a home run against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Oracle Park.
Jun 2, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Juan Soto (right) celebrates with center fielder Aaron Judge (99) after hitting a home run against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Oracle Park. / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Yankees gave up five players to extract Juan Soto away from the San Diego Padres for one season.

So far, he’s absolutely been worth the cost.

Even though Soto is sitting out a few days with left forearm inflammation, the numbers speak for themselves. The right fielder slashed .318/.424/.603/1.027 in his first 64 games, with 17 home runs and 53 RBI.

Soto, along with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, became the first trio of Yankees in franchise history to hit at least 15 home runs in the team’s first 62 games. This is a franchise nicknamed the “Bronx Bombers,” so that says something about how well Soto, Judge and Stanton are slugging the ball this season.

It’s the marriage of Soto and Judge on the baseball field that some of Soto’s former teammates in San Diego have credited for his resurgence this season. The Yankees visited the Padres a couple of weeks ago, which was Soto’s first visit since the trade.

Soto’s production and disposition made an impression on his former teammates — and they believe a lot of it has to do with Judge, the Yankees’ captain.

"You can tell the difference," one Padre veteran said in a piece by Bob Nightengale at USA Today. "He’s so much happier than he was here. You can tell he was just never comfortable. Now he is. He’s a different guy."

Soto’s production with the Padres last season certainly wasn’t lacking. He slashed .275/.410/.519/.930 with a career-high 35 home runs along with 109 RBI. He led the Majors with 132 walks and played in 162 games for the first time in his career.

But, as Nightengale pointed out, there is a huge difference between his start with the Yankees and his start last season with the Padres.

In his first 61 games last season for the Padres he was batting .248 with an .877 OPS. With the Yankees both numbers jumped in the same time frame — .318 batting average with a 1.027 OPS.

It’s a significant jump and just another reason why the Yankees are likely to do everything possible to re-sign Soto after the season when he becomes a free agent. That price tag could be more than $500 million.

But if this is the production the Yankees can expect from a player that hasn’t even turned 26 years old, he’ll be worth the cost. Especially if Judge is his teammate.


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Matthew Postins

MATTHEW POSTINS

Matthew Postins is an award-winning sports journalist who covers the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, New York Yankees and Houston Astros for Sports Illustrated/FanNation