Yankees’ Juan Soto Could be One and Done: ‘The odds are this is a one-year situation’

MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants, yankees
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had several goals going into the 2024 off-season, one of which was reinforcing the outfield with a star lefty bat. Aside from acquiring Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox, he managed to secure the services of Juan Soto, a Hall of Fame-level player who is just 25 years old.

The priority was finding talent with proven durability, and Soto has played a minimum of 151 games over the past three consecutive seasons. In fact, he played all 162 games last year, hitting .275/.410/.519, including a career-high 35 homers. He also tallied 109 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, an 18.2% strikeout rate, and an 18.6% walk rate.

Pairing him with Aaron Judge at the top of the Yankees’ batting order should produce substantial results, helping overturn a unit that struggled considerably in 2023.

High Stakes Acquisition

However, Cashman acquired Soto, knowing that the upcoming season could be a one-and-done scenario. Soto is entering the final year of arbitration, settling with the Yankees at $31 million, breaking an MLB record. However, Cashman downplayed the idea that the Yankees will manage to extend him before he hits free agency, especially since he’s a Scott Boras client.

“I don’t see too many things stopping him from reaching free agency.”

Cashman stated that the odds would indicate Soto is a one-year situation. Still, the expectation is that the Bombers will pursue him aggressively in free agency, even if it means handing out a $400 million contract. It is not often you stumble upon a 25-year-old superstar who represents one of the best hitters in baseball.

Yankees’ Future Financial Strategy

The Yankees signed Aaron Judge to a nine-year, $360 million deal last off-season, averaging $40 million per season, but the Dominican-born talent is expected to exceed those numbers by a fair margin. Soto could earn upward of $45 million on a 10-year deal, expiring at just 35 years old, three years younger than Josh Donaldson was last season.

Of course, to remain competitive and compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Yankees will have to spend their fair share, but that means leaning on some of their younger prospects to help keep costs down at other positions.

Fortunately, they have plenty of talent climbing the farm system, including players like Will Warren, Chase Hampton, Spencer Jones, Jasson Dominguez, and Ben Rice. Suppose even two of those players take over starting positions long-term. In that case, it should open up a significant amount of financial flexibility for the future and protect any Yankees luxury allocations.

The Path to the World Series

Currently, the Yankees have a $295 million projected total payroll, including $202.4 million in 2025. They will have to make a decision on Anthony Rizzo, who has a team option at $17 million, among other decisions in arbitration.

The Yankees stand to lose Gleyber Torres, Soto, Verdugo, and others in free agency, so the reliance on young talent will be paramount in the future. In the meantime, they will be seeking their first World Series appearance in over a decade, and as usual, it will rely on the team’s ability to remain healthy.

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