New Yankees outfielder Juan Soto had his first media session with the New York press on Tuesday and it wasn’t long before the obvious question was asked. Would the 25-year-old skip his upcoming free agency to sign an extension with the New York Yankees?
Naturally, Soto played coy.
“My priorities right now are just getting to know the team, getting to know the guys,” Soto said. “About any contract stuff, they know where to call and who to talk to. I’m here just to play baseball and try to keep concentrating on playing baseball.”
The one downside of the Juan Soto trade is that the Yankees gave up five players for a one-year rental. Soto will make approximately $30 million in 2024 before hitting free agency at season’s end. His agent is also the notorious Scott Boras, the Man of the Megadeals.
Throw in Soto’s powerful lefty swing, durability, and knack for leading MLB in walks, and plenty of teams will want him. The Yankees are probably one of the few that can actually pay him what he wants.
We won’t get into a big talk about the money, AAV, etc. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Yankees are prepared to offer Soto a 13-year, $525 million contract. That averages to about $40.4 million a year.
However, New York’s expected 2024 payroll is already pretty high. Spotrac lists active payroll at $188.3 million, and projected payroll even higher at $273 million. And even higher if the Yankees sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
This means that in order to keep Soto, Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have their work cut out for them. However, clearing money shouldn’t actually be that difficult. Here’s how:
Offload Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees are about to hit a crossroads with Stanton, who hit .191 in an injury-riddled 2024. Even if he has a comeback season, the aging former MVP is expensive with $118 million due through 2027. Expecting a return to form at 35 is a big, big ask.
Thus, if Stanton continues declining, Cashman should give him the Joey Gallo treatment. Find a willing trade partner that Stanton likes, negotiate how much money to cover, and get a minor league depth arm back in return.
Trade Gleyber Torres. Several Yankees fans will be very angry about this, but it has to happen if the front office wants to extend Juan Soto. Torres is also a year from free agency and projected to earn $14.6 million in 2024. Meanwhile, DJ LeMahieu has 10-and-5 rights and Oswald Peraza is waiting in the wings.
The reality is that Torres’ value is never going to be higher than it is right now, and Peraza seemed to find his swing at the end of the season. Best to move Torres either now or at the trade deadline for some prospects.
A long look at Spencer Jones. We come to the Wild Card in the Juan Soto saga, No. 1 prospect Spencer Jones. The big lefty outfielder hit .267 in his first full pro season and has already drawn comparisons to Aaron Judge. However, Jones is still a minor leaguer, Soto is a regular MVP candidate, and now Cashman has to make his hardest decision yet.
Except it’s actually quite simple. Once we’re at the All-Star Break, and if Brian Cashman is confident he can re-sign Juan Soto, trading Spencer Jones should become a top priority. He’s a No. 1 prospect and the Yankees can demand a king’s ransom in return. And if not Jones, maybe Cashman bites the bullet, swallows hard, and trades the beloved Jasson Dominguez.
Regardless, between the above scenarios and money coming off the books next year, the Yankees keeping Juan Soto beyond 2024 isn’t impossible. It’s really just a matter of committing to the idea and making the according baseball moves.