Juan Soto says ‘I am part of Yankees’ amid reports of Mets readying massive enticement

Juan Soto is training with the Yankees teammates in Tampa on March 2, 2024.
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Michael Bennington
Friday March 8, 2024

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A recent visit to Port St. Lucie by ESPN’s Buster Olney has sparked speculation about the New York Mets’ potential pursuit of superstar outfielder Juan Soto.  

Olney’s observations point toward a strong interest from the Mets in acquiring Juan Soto when he becomes a free agent next offseason. This news adds another layer to the ongoing saga surrounding the slugger’s future, with the Yankees previously mentioned as a potential landing spot.

Olney wrote on the social media site X on Wednesday, stating that the most intriguing information heard at the Mets’ camp yesterday was their intention to pursue Juan Soto next winter. He noted that this Juan Soto plan is not surprising, especially considering that contracts like Max Scherzer’s will come off their payroll by then.

However, Juan Soto sidestepped questions regarding this.

“I don’t know,” Juan Soto said on Thursday. “I don’t really care. It is what it is. For me, like I’ve said, I’m going to play baseball. I’m part of the Yankees right now. I’m not going to worry about it.”

The slugger’s subsequent musings carried undertones of a subtle memo to Yankee decision-makers, should they be listening closely between the lines.

“I’m part of the Yankees,” he said. “If they want to talk, they can talk with Scott.”

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Juan Soto: The apple of big eyes

The December trade that brought superstar outfielder Juan Soto to the Bronx in exchange for a significant package of prospects from the San Diego Padres sent shockwaves through Major League Baseball. This move fundamentally altered the trajectory of the Yankees’ franchise.

However, Juan Soto’s long-term future in pinstripes remains uncertain. He is set to become a free agent after the 2024 season, and baseball insiders widely anticipate him commanding a record-breaking contract.

This comes as no surprise. Even before his arrival in New York, Juan Soto had established himself as one of the game’s most elite players at just 25 years old. His impressive resume includes four top-10 finishes in National League MVP voting, three Silver Slugger Awards, three All-Star selections, a batting title, and a World Series championship ring. This track record positions him to potentially reset the market for player contracts.

The upcoming season will be crucial for both the Yankees and Juan Soto. For the Yankees, it’s an opportunity to build a championship contender with the star slugger as the centerpiece. For the slugger, it’s a chance to further solidify his superstar status and potentially leverage a historic free agency payday.

Juan Soto strikes a pose during the Yankees spring training games in February 2024.
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The arrival of Juan Soto in New York has ignited a potential bidding war between the city’s two baseball teams. With he set to become a free agent after the 2024 season, the Yankees are widely expected to make a significant push to retain the young slugger.

The Yankees paid a hefty price to acquire Juan Soto last December, parting ways with five players, including promising pitchers Michael King and Drew Thorpe, in the trade with the San Diego Padres. This significant investment underscores the Yankees’ commitment to building a championship contender with Juan Soto as the pivot.

However, the crosstown Mets, known for their deep pockets under owner Steve Cohen, may have designs on Juan Soto as well. ESPN’s Buster Olney recently reported on the Mets’ strong interest in acquiring him next offseason. While not every team can afford a player of Juan Soto’s caliber, his impressive 35-homer performance last season certainly puts him in the elite category. His age (just 25) further sweetens the deal for potential suitors.

Can the Mets pull off a surprise?

While the New York Mets, backed by their deep-pocketed owner Steve Cohen, were active players in the trade market, they took a more measured approach in the free agent frenzy this offseason. Their most notable pursuit was Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who ultimately spurned their offer in favor of a record-breaking 12-year, $325 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, the upcoming offseason promises to be a more aggressive one for the Mets. In 2024’s offseason, the Mets and owner Steve Cohen are poised to make a splash once more. With Max Scherzer’s hefty $43.3 million payday coming off the ledger, alongside Justin Verlander’s identically priced contract (barring his $35 million vesting option activating at 140 innings pitched, which would still leave the Mets on the hook for a cool $17.5 million), Cohen will have ample financial firepower at his disposal.

A key decision looms regarding the future of their homegrown slugger, Pete Alonso. The popular first baseman, known for his prodigious home run power, is also set to become a free agent after the 2024 season. Interestingly, Alonso shares the same agent as the recently acquired Juan Soto: Scott Boras. Boras is a renowned negotiator with a history of securing record-breaking contracts for his clients. This connection between Alonso and Juan Soto could potentially influence the Mets’ strategy as they navigate contract negotiations for both players.

Insiders suggest that newly minted Mets baseball chief David Stearns has a penchant for targeting free agents no older than 28, and at just 25, Juan Soto fits that bill perfectly. While Cohen’s competitive drive is undeniable, his hunger for a championship may be particularly insatiable as he enters the fifth year of his reign, given his initial declaration of aspiring to secure a World Series title within that timeframe. Although Cohen refrained from joining the Aaron Judge sweepstakes, Juan Soto now dons the pinstripes that the homegrown Yankee superstar once wore. While the most plausible outcome still sees him remaining in The Bronx, the second likeliest scenario might just involve a hop across town to Queens.

Agent to push up Juan Soto sweepstakes

Yankees slugger Juan Soto at Tampa during the 2024 spring training camp.
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Navigating Juan Soto’s future is none other than superagent Scott Boras, renowned for his uncanny ability to both attract elite talent and subsequently negotiate astronomical contracts on their behalf. He currently represents a triumvirate of handsomely compensated Yankees: pitchers Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon, as well as Juan Soto himself. Surprisingly, in one of baseball’s most stunning upsets in recent memory, Boras did not represent the biggest fish in the previous two free-agent frenzies. December 2022 saw Aaron Judge re-sign with the Yankees for a franchise-record $360 million over nine years, while this past winter, two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani inked a groundbreaking, deferred-heavy 10-year, $700 million pact with the Dodgers, setting a new benchmark for player compensation.

This brewing competition between the Yankees and Mets promises to be a fascinating storyline as the 2024 season unfolds. Juan Soto’s performance and the Yankees’ success this year will undoubtedly influence their future contract negotiations. The Mets, meanwhile, will need to carefully navigate their own free agency decisions, including that of slugger Pete Alonso, before potentially entering the Soto sweepstakes.

Olney mentioned on X that there are several tanking teams unwilling to consider absorbing Juan Soto’s salary.

In spring training, Juan Soto has kicked off with an impressive performance, hitting 6 out of 9 with five additional base hits, including three homers, and securing seven RBIs in his initial four games. Positioned second in the Yankees’ batting order, just ahead of Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, whose .421 career on-base percentage places him 19th in MLB history, showcases his prowess at the plate.

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