Yankees’ desire for Juan Soto hangs on a $400 million decision

mlb: san diego padres at new york yankees, juan soto, mets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret the New York Yankees want superstar slugger Juan Soto, but that depends entirely on the San Diego padres’ willingness to part ways with one of the best offensive players in the game. Ultimately, the Padres are undergoing some financial difficulties after taking out a $50 million loan in September to cover their payroll expenses.

They will have to offload salary one way or another, and until they manage to open up $50 million for the 2024 season, it is safe to say that Soto is available at the right price. Of course, general manager AJ Preller is going to demand a significant return, but he may have no choice but to lessen those initial desires if his organization simply can’t pay the salaries.

The Yankees Have Leverage to Land Juan Soto

Soto is expected to earn around $30 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent. San Diego will not be able to extend him on a long-term deal, making his availability even more likely since Preller will want to get anything in return before they lose him and his value for good.

The Yankees have excellent pitching prospects to leverage in a deal with the Padres, who are looking for MLB-ready talent. However, general manager Brian Cashman needs to have the green light to extend Soto beyond the 2024 season if he’s willing to part ways with prospects now for a one-year rental.

Soto is expected to land a deal in the $400 million range, having already declined a 15-year, $440 million contract with the Nationals in 2022. Clearly, he’s looking for even more, and there’s no doubt he’s going to get it. That contract would’ve paid him $29 million per season, but he’s likely headed toward a deal in the $40 million per season range, making the Yankees one of only a handful of teams capable of spending that much money.

Soto is coming off of a season where he played all 162 games and has played a minimum of 151 in the past three consecutive seasons. He hit .275 with a .410 OBP, .519 slugging rate, 35 homers, 109 RBIs, an 18.2% strikeout rate, and an 18.6% walk rate over 708 plate appearances. He recorded a 155 wRC+ and 5.5 WAR, showcasing his talent. This isn’t just a one-off season, he does this on a regular basis, whereas centerfielder Cody Bellinger has one great season over the past three years.

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The Yankees Need to Go Big or Go Home

If the Yankees are going to spend $200 million on Bellinger, they’re better off getting the far better player in Soto, who’s only 25 years old and just hitting his prime. Given what he could accomplish in Yankee Stadium with the short right porch, it is no surprise the Yankees are waiting patiently for the Padres to make a move since Soto would completely overhaul the batting order and provide Aaron Judge with the one-two punch that would make the team World Series contenders.

It all hangs on the idea that the Yankees will extend him beyond 2024, so owner Hal Steinbrenner needs to be willing to part ways with a significant amount of capital to keep him in pinstripes. Otherwise, acquiring him now would be a net negative move since the team would have to give away quality prospects and potentially take on another contract like Jake Cronenworth, who has experienced a decline over the past two years.