The Nationals' Juan Soto reacts after he scored on a...

The Nationals' Juan Soto reacts after he scored on a triple by Josh Bell during the fourth inning of a game against Atlanta on Saturday in Washington. Credit: AP/Nick Wass

This is a column on why the Yankees should go after Juan Soto, but it starts with a rookie on the Red Sox named Jeter Downs.

He was born in San Andres, Colombia, in 1998 to a baseball-loving mother who, even from 4,000 miles away, was swept up in the global phenomenon that was the Yankees dynasty. Here was a superstar — and a team — that transcended language and nationality, and when it came time for Lucila to name her second-born, she convinced her husband, a Red Sox fan, that she wanted her boy to be like Jeter.

That’s what the Yankees could do back then. That’s who they were. And that’s who they can be again.

On Saturday morning, news broke that Soto had rejected the Nationals’ 15-year, $440 million contract extension, something that made it open season on one of MLB’s best players.

Hours later, Aaron Judge hit his 32nd and 33rd home runs, tying Roger Maris’ record for the most in franchise history before the All-Star break.

Matt Carpenter — the folk hero who has rediscovered his swing — had two homers and seven RBIs in the Yankees’ 14-1 drubbing of the Red Sox. Around them played Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu and Jose Trevino and . . . well, you get the idea.

As this first half ends, the Yankees find themselves atop the MLB food chain at 63-28 — a mark that’s matched only four other times in the last 52 years. They’re on pace for 112 wins, putting them in shooting distance of the franchise record of 114, which they accomplished the year Downs was born (the MLB record is 116). Anything short of a World Series title would be a disappointment (if that isn’t vintage dynasty Yankees, nothing is).

Do the Yankees absolutely need Soto to do that? Probably not. Should they do it anyway? Yes, absolutely.

Let’s not mince words: Soto is going to be eye-wateringly expensive. All those untouchable prospects? Forget about them. Landing Soto, a 23-year-old with 2 1⁄2 more years on his contract, will mean leveraging the farm. That means discussing names such as Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez. Miguel Andujar, who deserves playing time somewhere else anyway, could be a chip to trade. But it’ll likely take major-league talent, too, and talent that’s under team control. Sounds a whole lot like Gleyber Torres, doesn’t it?

In return, the Yankees would create a super-team that would make even George Steinbrenner gape in awe. Soto is a former Rookie of the Year and already a two-time All-Star, with a stellar eye, big-time power and a sweet lefty swing that could make a mockery out of the short porch. He might be baseball’s best pure hitter. He’s a former National League batting champion who doesn’t flinch in the bright lights, as proved in the Nationals’ 2019 championship season.

And there are reasons Soto said no to all that money. For one, it would have locked him up until he was 38 — a contract with an average annual value that will depreciate as salaries around baseball continue to rise. But for a player that good, it’s going to be more than that: Soto has won a World Series. He’s tasted greatness. And the Nationals not only are not great but don’t look primed to be for quite a while, especially with the Lerner family reportedly looking to sell the franchise. A throne of dollar bills is fun, but a few more World Series rings along with a throne of dollar bills a little bit later down the line is even better.

The Yankees have what it takes to give him that.

Brian Cashman got a lot of flak in the offseason for not being as active as fans wanted him to be, but give credit where it’s due — this team, through built-in talent, solid managing, good breaks and a few savvy moves, is much better than anyone could have expected. But even in this new era, being the Yankees’ general manager means having that killer instinct and a willingness to keep moving, keep improving, even when others think you’ve already arrived. By making a big move here — by trading highly touted but still-unproven talent for a generational player — Cashman not only would set up this team for this year but for the future.

The Yankees want Judge back and should be expected to make a strong enough push to keep him. Trading for Soto, meanwhile, would put them in prime position to lock him down for years to come, and this means a few things. It not only gives them leverage in the Judge talks but provides a backup plan if Judge decides to walk.

If they keep Judge, it means a younger power bat from the opposite side of the plate to complement him. Add to that: Gerrit Cole, Stanton and LeMahieu are all here for the foreseeable future.

This isn’t just a win-now team. This is a win-later team. With Soto, they have the opportunity to be “a win like they used to back then’’ team.

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