It’s been an awfully busy week for the New York Yankees. On Monday, Brian Cashman and Co. were repotedly in Los Angeles for an in-person meeting with coveted Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. And then, on Tuesday, it was back to the Bronx to introduce their first big fish of the offseason: outfielder Juan Soto, acquired from the Padres in a blockbuster deal at the tail end of last week’s Winter Meetings.
Your first look at Juan Soto in a Yankees hat pic.twitter.com/EQU3Cnwjup— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) December 12, 2023
Soto addressed the New York media for the first time as a member of the Yankees, and he seemed awfully excited about his new home.
“More than excited,” Soto said when asked how he feels about joining the Yankees and playing in front of the large Dominican community in the Bronx. “ This is a great organization and a great team. Winning, that’s all I care about. I come to the field thinking about winning every day, and that’s what I want to do.”
Juan Soto describes what it's like to join the New York Yankees. pic.twitter.com/kYZ7fyOeUs— YES Network (@YESNetwork) December 12, 2023
Soto said several new Yankees teammates have already reached out to him to welcome him to the team, including captain Aaron Judge and reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. “It’s going to be really fun (playing with Judge),” he added. “I’m more than excited to share the field with him.”
Juan Soto reveals he was playing Nintendo with his friends when he found out he'd been traded to the Yankees pic.twitter.com/kM4VrD3Cih— YES Network (@YESNetwork) December 12, 2023
Of course, it was only a matter of time before reporters addressed the elephant in the room: whether Soto, set to be the top player available next winter, would forgo his first foray into free agency in order to sign a long-term contract extension with the Yankees. Given that he previously turned down a rumored $440 million offer from the Nationals two years ago — and that his agent is Scott Boras — it seems pretty unlikely, and Soto repeatedly brushed the matter aside on Tuesday.
“I’ve been doing it for six years now,” Soto said about the pressure of playing for a contract. “It’s not going to be that hard because I have one of the best agents in the league. I put everything on him and let him do his magic. My mindset is to just come here and play baseball and try to win a championship.”
Judge reset the hitter market last offseason, landing a contract that will pay him $40 million a year through his age-39 season. A similar deal for Soto would be a 14-year agreement worth $560 million beginning in 2025. Of course, Shohei Ohtani just signed a massive $700 million contract — one that isn’t really worth $700 million because of its unique deferral structure, sure, but you can be sure Boras will cling to that $700 million number when he opens negotiations with interested parties.
“My priority right now is just getting to know the team and these guys,” Soto said, adding it is not on his new teammates to sell him on the organization. “For any contract stuff, they know who to call and who to talk to. I’m here just to play baseball.”
The Yankees went 82-80 and missed the postseason in 2023. It was their worst record since 1992. Trading five prospects for one year of Soto and putting on the full court press for Yamamoto shows New York badly wants to return to the playoffs in 2024.