Yankees need to sidestep star outfielder who wants ‘in excess of $250 million’

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves, cody bellinger, yankees
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Paying a 25-year-old superstar slugger $30 million for one rental season certainly poses some concerns, but the New York Yankees are willing to go all in on Juan Soto in the hopes of retaining him via extension during the two 2024 off-season.

The Yankees are aggressively trying to find common ground with the San Diego Padres, who are clearly looking to offload salary and have made Soto available via trade. Up to this point, AJ Preller has been asking an astronomical amount in return, but you have to start somewhere, and asking for too much is always a good way to find common ground in the middle.

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The Yankees Are Still Eyeing Cody Bellinger

The Yankees remain in on star centerfielder Cody Bellinger, a 28-year-old looking for a long-term extension. Bellinger has one great season out of his last three years, hitting .307 with a .356 OBP and .525 slugging rate in 2023. He also contributed 26 homers, 97 RBIs, a career-high 20 stolen bases, and a 134 wRC+. He’s a great lefty hitter when playing to his potential, but he’s been wildly inconsistent over the past few years and certainly poses some concerns.

According to Brendon Kuty of The Athletic, the Yankees are still interested in Bellinger, but his asking price is far above their comfort zone. In fact, Bob Nightingale of USA Today believes that he wants a contract “in excess of $250 million,” which is unprecedented money for a player that could see massive regression in 2024.

“The team is interested in free-agent center fielder Cody Bellinger, the source said, but so far his asking price has been set prohibitively high.”

Via Kuty

Considering that Bellinger posted career lows in hard-hit percentage, barrel rate, and average exit velocity, it is safe to say that things could level out next season, and a long-term contract with that type of price tag could end up biting the Yankees in the butt.

It seems they’re willing to spend, but the Yankees are better off acquiring Soto, who has shown consistency every year and is only 25 years old. Bellinger has only played over 150 games once since 2019, and Soto has played three consecutive years with a minimum of 150 innings, including all 162 games this past season.

If it were up to Cashman, Soto would be their preference, but Bellinger remains in the mix as long as the Yankees and Padres are negotiating a potential deal. Unless Belly’s price tag comes down considerably, the Yankees should simply be using their interest in him as leverage against the Padres since not many other teams are intrigued by the idea of Soto on a one-year rental with a salary of $30 million in his final year of arbitration.