For Juan Soto, plenty of reasons to agree to in-season Yankees contract talks

Yankees' slugger Juan Soto at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 2024.
Sara Molnick
Saturday May 18, 2024

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Aaron Boone’s “certainly hope” explains a firm desire for the Yankees to sign Juan Soto for a long-term contract. It is not a surprise in light of the recent buzz surrounding the star outfielder’s future. Just a day prior, Juan Soto indicated his openness to talk for a multi-year commitment, even before the start of free agency in November, igniting a wave of excitement throughout the baseball world.

While Juan Soto and his agent, Scott Boras, are likely to approach any potential negotiations with caution, the Yankees remain hopeful of securing the slugger’s services for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, The slugger has consistently demonstrated his value on the field, cementing his status as the Yankees’ most formidable hitter with runners in scoring position, despite a recent 2-for-32 slump that has slightly dented his batting average.

Beyond his on-field contributions, Juan Soto has also distinguished himself as one of the team’s most dedicated players. On Friday afternoon, he was the sole player on the field at 2:30, engaging in early batting practice hours before his teammates were required to suit up. This commitment to his craft speaks volumes about Juan Soto’s work ethic and desire to excel.

During his pre-game ritual, Juan Soto could have easily taken a more relaxed approach without drawing any criticism. However, he not only put in the extra work but also focused on honing his opposite-field hitting, positioning three clubhouse kids exclusively in left and left-center field. By deliberately avoiding right field, Juan Soto challenged himself to stay back on the ball and resist the temptation to pull the 45-mph meatballs thrown his way, showcasing an impressive display of plate discipline.

These small sacrifices and attention to detail may not always be reflected in the next day’s box score, but they certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by the Yankees organization. As the team eagerly awaits the opportunity to potentially secure Juan Soto’s long-term commitment, his unwavering dedication and exceptional skills continue to make him an invaluable asset both on and off the field.

Juan Soto is the apple of the Yankees’ eyes

Aaron Boone’s praise for Juan Soto extends beyond the slugger’s on-field performance, emphasizing the profound impact he has had on the Yankees as a whole. Boone is in awe of the slugger’s serious approach to the game, striking a balance between an unwavering dedication to his craft and an obsession with winning, all while maintaining a carefree demeanor that has resonated with his teammates.

volpe-cabrera-soto-new-york-yankees
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“(Soto) has made a huge difference for our team and it’s not just his performance between the lines, but the way he goes about things,” the manager said. “It’s been fun to witness how serious he is about the game, while doing a good job of striking a balance between being serious about the craft and being obsessed with winning while (also) having a carefree (way) about him.”

Despite being only 25 years old and just two years older than Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto carries himself with the poise and maturity of a seasoned veteran, earning the respect and deference of his teammates. Even Aaron Judge, the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse, regards him as an equal, underscoring the two-way relationship that may influence his decision about his future beyond 2025.

While Juan Soto had previously insisted on postponing any decisions about free agency until November or even January, given his agent Scott Boras’ negotiating style, he has recently begun to hint at his growing attachment to the Yankees. The slugger has expressed his admiration for the team’s vast and passionate fan base, feeling at home among the large Dominican community in New York and relishing the experience of being in first place in the East.

The emotional bond Juan Soto has formed with the Yankees has caught him somewhat by surprise, and while discussions about the financial aspects of a potential long-term deal have yet to take place, it is clear that his connection to the team runs deep. Boone emphasized this point, noting that Juan Soto’s love for the game and the passion he shares with his teammates has fostered a strong sense of camaraderie, particularly among the hitters and position players, creating a familial atmosphere within the team.

As the Yankees eagerly anticipate the opportunity to secure Juan Soto’s long-term commitment, the slugger’s growing attachment to the organization, coupled with his exceptional skills and dedication, make him an invaluable asset both on and off the field. The ultimate decision will rest in the hands of Hal Steinbrenner and Scott Boras, but the foundation for a lasting partnership has already been laid through the emotional connection Juan Soto has forged with the Yankees.

No threat to focus from in-season extension talks

With both Hal Steinbrenner and Juan Soto expressing their willingness to explore a long-term contract extension, the baseball world eagerly awaits the outcome of their potential negotiations. However, Soto’s teammates and manager, Aaron Boone, remain confident that the slugger’s focus will not be diverted by any ongoing discussions during the season.

“I don’t worry about that with Juan,’’ Boone said said. “He’s fixated on winning and playing at a really high level. If and when those conversations happen, I don’t expect that to be a distraction.”

Juan Soto is with Aaron Judge after hitting a home run in the Yankees' 7-0 win vs. the Marlins at Yankee Stadium on April 8, 2024.
New York Yankees

Before the Yankees‘ series opener against the White Sox in The Bronx on Friday, Boone expressed his lack of concern regarding Juan Soto’s ability to maintain his concentration on the field. He is assured of the slugger’s unwavering commitment to winning and performing at the highest level, stating that even if contract talks were to take place, he did not anticipate them becoming a distraction for the young star.

Gerrit Cole, a teammate of Juan Soto and fellow Scott Boras client, acknowledged the exceptional nature of Soto’s situation with the Yankees. He recognized the validity of Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to engage in contract extension talks, given Juan Soto’s extraordinary talent and impact on the team. Cole admitted that he had never encountered a similar circumstance before, highlighting the unique position the slugger finds himself in.

“It’s a unique circumstance,’’ Cole said. “It’s Juan Soto. So I get why Hal would say that. It’s a special circumstance. I don’t think I’ve ever come across it before.”

Juan Soto’s contributions have been instrumental in the Yankees’ impressive start to the season, and he has seamlessly integrated into the team and the Bronx community. Cole expressed confidence that the star’s performance and focus would remain unaffected, even if contract negotiations were to take place during the season. He pointed out that Juan Soto had previously navigated similar discussions without any detrimental effects on his on-field performance, allaying any concerns about potential distractions.

Giancarlo Stanton, another teammate, believes that Juan Soto’s experience playing for multiple organizations has equipped him with the ability to thrive under the intense scrutiny that often accompanies high-profile contract talks. He expressed confidence in the slugger’s mental fortitude, emphasizing that the young slugger is not easily fazed by pressure and consistently delivers top-notch performances on the field.

Yankees slugger Juan Soto at Tampa during the 2024 spring training camp.
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As the baseball world eagerly awaits the outcome of potential negotiations between Juan Soto and the Yankees, his teammates remain steadfast in their belief that he will continue to excel, regardless of the ongoing discussions. His unparalleled talent, combined with his proven ability to handle high-stakes situations, positions him well to navigate this unique circumstance and maintain his status as a vital contributor to the Yankees’ success.

According to Stanton, the Yankees’ willingness to make such a substantial move demonstrated their commitment to retaining Juan Soto beyond his current one-year contract. He reasoned that a team would not invest so heavily in a player they considered a mere “rental.” In Stanton’s view, Steinbrenner’s recent statement served to confirm what had already been evident through the team’s actions.

Manager Aaron Boone echoed the sentiment, expressing his hope that Soto would remain a Yankee for the foreseeable future.

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