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Juan Soto open to in-season contract talks with Yankees

MINNEAPOLIS – Juan Soto has adapted very well to the Yankees, marveling at the scope and intensity of the fan base, savoring the rich culture of New York and, of course, hitting in a loaded lineup right in front of Aaron Judge.

He’ll need to make a decision sooner rather than later on whether he wants to re-join the club, with his first time as a free agent looming in the fall. But maybe it won’t make it to the free market at all. Soto said Thursday he would give his blessing to contract negotiations during the season if the Yankees want to approach his agent, Scott Boras, about a long-term deal.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner told the team’s YES Network that he would consider such a tactic for the three-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger, who is still only 25 years old.

“We’d like to see him here for the rest of his career. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. His agent, Scott, doesn’t tend to do deals mid-season. I don’t more I think it can be a distraction,” Steinbrenner said in the interview. “But like I said in spring training… it’s a unique situation and a very unique player, so I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a conversation or two during ‘a season. I think it’s worth doing at some point.’

Soto is hitting .302 with 9 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .920 OPS in 45 games. He signed a one-year, $31 million contract to avoid salary arbitration after San Diego sent him and outfielder Trent Grisham to New York as part of a December payroll swap for catcher Kyle Higashioka and four pitchers.

Asked about Steinbrenner’s comments Thursday after the Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins, Soto said his “door has always been open” to doing a new deal before the fall, but stressed he was just trying to give priority to play well and fit in.

“They know the phone number and everything. They know where to call. For me here, I’m focused on baseball. My thing is trying to help the team win,” Soto said.

Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer in 2022 from the Washington Nationals, betting he would get a better offer as a free agent after the 2024 season. The Nationals dealt him to the Padres this summer- there.

Steinbrenner said in the interview with YES that he wanted to give Soto space to get comfortable before broaching the subject of the contract with his camp.

“Let’s focus on 2024, and most importantly, winning a championship this year,” Steinbrenner said.

Soto said he appreciated that. But maybe not as much as having Judge, the 2022 American League MVP, behind him.

The Yankees outscored the Twins 14-1 and outscored them 35-14 in the series. Judge’s slugging percentage went from .860 to .948 over the last two games when he went 6-for-7 with a home run, 5 doubles and 2 walks. Soto did not have as much success in the series, going 2 for 11 with 3 runs, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.

“They threw it hard, had it a little bit, but that’s why guys aren’t hitting .500,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It happens in any given series, and he’ll lock it down very quickly.”

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News Source : www.espn.com

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