Steinbrenner’s payroll constraints cast doubt on Juan Soto’s future with Yankees

Juan Soto’s future with the Yankees is up in the air after Hal Steinbrenner's confession about the Yanks' payroll
Amanda Paula
Thursday May 23, 2024

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There’s considerable speculation about Juan Soto‘s future with the New York Yankees. Recent statements by managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner have fueled doubts about Soto’s long-term presence on the team. Steinbrenner expressed concerns about the team’s current payroll, labeling it as “simply not sustainable” moving forward.

Juan Soto’s future uncertain amid Yankees’ financial concerns

An insider highlighted Juan Soto’s track record of rejecting contract extensions, having turned down seven offers in his career. While some believe he might renew with the Yankees, it’s likely to happen only after he reaches free agency. Steinbrenner has emphasized the need for financial sustainability and has shown caution about making hefty financial commitments to retain top players.

“I’m gonna be honest, payrolls at the levels we’re at right now are simply not sustainable for us financially,” Steinbrenner stated at the league owners’ meetings, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post. “It wouldn’t be sustainable for the vast majority of ownership groups, given the luxury tax we have to pay.”

The New York Yankees' owner Hal Steinbrenner

Steinbrenner’s concerns are underscored by the Yankees missing the playoffs in 2023 despite having the league’s second-highest payroll. As Scott Boeck of USA Today reported, the Yankees’ payroll on April 3 was $303 million.

“I’ve been a broken record [on this topic]: I don’t believe I should have a $300 million payroll to win a championship,” Steinbrenner said. “I believe I need a good mix of veterans, who are gonna make a lot more money, but, also, we’ve put a lot of money into our player development system in the last 5-10 years. And in my opinion, we have one of the better ones in baseball now.”

Juan Soto’s future with the Yankees is up in the air after Hal Steinbrenner's confession about the Yanks' payroll

A significant question remains about the future of star outfielder Juan Soto, who is an impending free agent earning $31 million this year. The 25-year-old is having an impressive season, hitting .309 with an OPS of .947, 11 home runs, and 37 RBIs. Soto is expected to command a lucrative contract next offseason, whether with the Yankees or another team.

While Steinbrenner did not entirely rule out re-signing Soto, he pointed to potential payroll flexibility in 2025. “We’ve got a considerable amount of money coming off [next offseason],” he said.

Notable contracts expiring include those of Gleyber Torres ($14.2 million), Alex Verdugo ($8.7 million), Clay Holmes ($6 million), and Tommy Kahnle ($5.75 million). While the Yankees have a talented roster, making a significant financial commitment to re-sign Soto would only be sustainable if the team reaches the World Series. The cost to re-sign Soto is expected to be substantial. He previously turned down a 15-year, $440 million deal with the Washington Nationals in 2022, suggesting he could command even more given his current performance. However, Steinbrenner reiterated his stance against maintaining a $300 million payroll long-term.

Both Juan Soto and the Yankees have expressed openness to extension talks, but it’s unlikely an agreement will be reached before he hits free agency, where he could secure a more lucrative deal from another team. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Fox Sports noted on Foul Territory that an extension is “not going to happen.”

What’s going to happen?

For now, Soto remains a Yankee as the first-place Bronx Bombers aim for their first World Series title in 15 years. Whether the Yankees will align their actions with Steinbrenner’s financial caution remains to be seen. The Yankees have been performing well in the MLB, but only time will tell if they can maintain this balance.

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