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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Juan Soto, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner open to in-season contract extension talks

    New York Yankees' Juan Soto bats during a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday, May 10, 2024, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

    New York — Neither Juan Soto nor the Yankees are ruling out in-season discussions about a contract extension for the superstar slugger.

    Soto, whose first season with the Yankees is off to a red-hot start, is set to become a free agent this winter, with some projecting the ultra-productive 25-year-old to fetch a historic pact exceeding $50 million annually.

    Soto is represented by Scott Boras, the agent notorious for tracking down mega-deals for his clients.

    “We’d like to see him here for the rest of his career,” Yankees owner Hal Streinbrenner said on the YES Network’s “Yankees News & Views” podcast. “I don’t think there’s any doubt in that. His agent, Scott, doesn’t tend to normally do deals in the middle of the season. Neither do I. I think it can be a distraction.

    “But as I said in spring training … this is a unique situation and a very unique player, so I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a conversation or two had possibly during the course of the season,” Steinbrenner continued. “I think it’s worth doing at some point.”

    The Yankees acquired Soto in a blockbuster trade with San Diego in December, sending the Padres a five-player package that included starter Michael King and prized pitching prospect Drew Thorpe.

    Soto entered Friday night’s home game against the Chicago White Sox with a .302 average, nine home runs, 34 RBIs, a .403 on-base percentage and a .920 OPS through 45 games.

    “My door is always open,” Soto said Thursday regarding potential extension talks. “If they want to call Scott and start talking about it, it’s up to them. They know the phone number and everything. They know where to call. For me right here, I’m focusing on playing baseball. My thing is [to] try to help the team win.”

    Now in his seventh MLB season, Soto already boasts four top-10 finishes in National League MVP voting, three All-Star selections, four Silver Slugger Awards and a batting title. His career on-base percentage of .420 ranks 20th in MLB history, one spot behind Yankees great Mickey Mantle.

    Soto won a World Series in 2019 with the Washington Nationals, with whom he spent his first four and a half MLB seasons. He reportedly turned down a 15-year, $440 million extension with the Nationals before they traded him to San Diego during the 2022 season.

    The cash-strapped Padres then shipped Soto to the Yankees a little more than a year later. The lefty-swinging right fielder bats second for the Yankees, right in front of fellow slugger Aaron Judge. Judge, the Yankees’ captain, is in the second season of a nine-year, $360 million deal.

    Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Friday he “certainly” hopes Soto stays beyond this year and doesn’t believe in-season negotiations would distract the star.

    “He’s one of the game’s great players, and he’s been awesome in our room,” Boone said. “Since very early on in spring training, I feel like he’s fit in really well with the guys, and obviously he’s made a huge difference with our team and our lineup. Obviously [with] his performance between the lines, but the way he goes about things has been fun to witness.”

    Steinbrenner hailed Soto as a “generational” talent who has checked every box through his interactions with his teammates, Yankees fans and the media.

    “I wanted to give Juan time to really settle in and have a conversation with him at some point,” Steinbrenner said on the podcast, which is hosted by Jack Curry. “Obviously, the most important thing is: Is this a place he can see himself for a long time?”

    On Thursday, the Dominican-born Soto spoke highly of his experiences in New York so far, referencing the presence of Hispanic culture in the city while praising the Yankees’ “massive fan base.”

    “It’s really nice to see owners and GMs talking about wanting me on their teams for [my] whole life,” Soto said. “But at the end of the day, I’m focusing on this year.”

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