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Yankees’ Brian Cashman: No extension talks yet with Juan Soto

New York’s long-time GM met with the media a day after pulling off the blockbuster of the offseason so far.

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman speaks to the media during the MLB General Manager’s Meetings at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman met with the media on Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours removed from bringing Juan Soto (and Trent Grisham) to the Bronx in the blockbuster deal of the offseason so far.

As you might imagine, there was a lot to talk about, and Cashman touched on a variety of topics — from a potential extension with Soto to who will start in center field to the team’s plans for the rest of the offseason. We’ve dug through it all to bring you the three biggest takeaways from Thursday’s press conference.

1. No extension talks yet with Soto

As you may have heard by now, Soto is set to hit free agency next winter, and the Yankees would undoubtedly like to keep him in pinstripes for more than just 2024. But Cashman confirmed on Thursday that the two sides have yet to discuss a potential long-term deal. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering that Soto is represented by Scott Boras — an agent with a very long track record of having his clients test the open market — and the Yankees’ historical reluctance to hand out deals to their best players ahead of free agency. (Even Aaron Judge had to wait until he hit the market to get his deal done.)

Just entering his prime at age 25, Soto is set to break the bank next winter, and convincing him to forgo his first foray into free agency feels like a long shot. Still, Cashman told reporters that he remains optimistic about enticing both Soto and other big-name stars, saying he wants to make the Yankees “the Mecca of baseball”.

Cashman expressed confidence that the Yankees have a solid recruitment strategy in place, adding that late owner George Steinbrenner “always felt that the best players in the world should play here for the New York Yankees”.

2. Pitching is now the priority

With their outfield issues largely solved, New York’s next focus becomes pretty obvious: starting pitching, an area of need even before rotation options Michael King, Randy Vasquez and Jhony Brito (as well as top pitching prospect Drew Thorpe) were sent to San Diego in the Soto deal.

Cashman confirmed as much on Thursday, saying that “onboarding pitching is going to be important” over the rest of the winter. In very much related news, the Yankees plan to host Yoshinbou Yamamoto when the Japanese ace begins meeting with teams early next week. Of course, Yamamoto is probably the most sought-after free agent not named Shohei Ohtani, with seemingly every big-market club in the running for his services and an eventual deal rumored to get as high as $300 million, so it’s far from a sure thing that Cashman will be able to close the deal.

And even if New York does land the 25-year-old, they could also use some depth given the recent injury histories of Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes Jr. A Cole-Yamamoto-Rodon-Cortes-Clarke Schmidt rotation carries tantalizing potential; but there’s also a world in which Yamamoto signs elsewhere, Cole begins to fall off a bit as he hits his mid-30s and Rodon and Cortes alternate between injured and ineffective. Navigating each of those potential scenarios is now Cashman’s No. 1 priority.

3. Judge is now a center fielder

This had been widely assumed since the Soto news first broke, but Cashman confirmed as much anyway: Aaron Judge (whose toe issue is finally behind him) would indeed be the Yankees’ starting center fielder if the season started today, likely with Soto in right, Alex Verdugo in left and Grisham serving as a fourth outfielder/late-inning defensive replacement. Judge is a better athlete than he gets credit for, and he’s capable of playing a credible center field; still, relying on a 32-year-old with a pretty extensive injury history does carry some considerable risk. It’s a risk worth taking, though, when the reward is landing Soto.