Juan Soto contract: Why new Yankees outfielder could be one-and-done in New York in 2024

The Yankees are going all-in on 2024. New York acquired star outfielder Juan Soto from the Padres to bolster a lineup that struggled in 2023 and led to one of the franchise’s more disappointing seasons.

The lineup pairing of Aaron Judge and Soto has the potential to be one of the best in the sport. Both are perennial MVP candidates and feared hitters who can punish opposing pitchers at any point during a game.

Yankee fans better enjoy the duo while it lasts, however, because it’s possible the two will only be paired up for one season. Judge is under contract through 2028, but Soto is not signed to any long-term deal. And it’s possible there won’t be one coming.

MORE: Latest updates, news from 2023 winter meetings

Why might Soto be headed out of New York after just one season? Here’s what you need to know.

Juan Soto contract details

Soto is under contract only through the 2024 season, though his exact price tag is not yet known. He is due to go through arbitration for the fourth and final time, with most estimating he will make somewhere between $27 million and $35 million.

The massive cost on just a one-year deal is the biggest reason Soto was traded from San Diego. The Padres were decimated by players leaving through free agency and have to rebuild their pitching staff around an offense that includes Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado, all of whom are signed to long-term deals. They are also looking to cut payroll.

The Yankees, however, have the type of bankroll to take on that type of deal. 

MORE: Shohei Ohtani rumors, updates for star’s free agency

Yankees payroll 2024

According to Spotrac, the Yankees are set to have a 2024 payroll of $203.7 million, third-highest in baseball. A $33 million salary for Soto would bump New York to No. 1 on the list, but the Yankees, of course, have a long history as big spenders.

Another part of the reason the Yankees might lose Soto after one season is because of all the money they already have locked up in other long-term deals. New York just signed Judge to a massive nine-year, $360 million contract last offseason. And that’s far from the only big contract left on the books.

Player Contract Last year
Aaron Judge 9 years, $360 million 2031
Giancarlo Stanton 13 years, $325 million 2028
Gerrit Cole 9 years, $324 million 2028
Carlos Rodon 6 years, $162 million 2028
DJ LeMahieu 6 years, $90 million 2026
Anthony Rizzo 2 years, $40 million 2025

And here’s a look at how those deals break down year by year, per Spotrac:

Player 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031
Aaron Judge $40m $40m $40m $40m $40m $40m $40m $40m
Giancarlo Stanton $32m $32m $29m $25m $25m*
Gerrit Cole $36m $36m** $36m $36m $36m
Carlos Rodon $27.8m $27.8m $27.8m $27.8m $27.8m
DJ LeMahieu $15m $15m $15m
Anthony Rizzo $17m $17m*
Total $167.8m $167.8m $147.8m $128.8m $128.8m $40m $40m $40m

* – Club option
** – Player opt-out

For just six total players, the Yankees are already committing $167.8 million of payroll in 2024 and 2025. It’s still as high as $147.8 million in 2026 and is up at $128.8 million until Stanton, Cole and Rodon are all off the books after 2028.

Soto’s deal, particularly given how young he is, is all but certain to exceed the $40 million per year average annual value record Judge set for position players. That would potentially mean exceeding $200 million in 2025 on just seven players and would still keep the payroll extremely high in 2026 and beyond. 

The Yankees have always been big spenders, but they haven’t been the same market-dominating team they were in the 1990s and 2000s. Signing Soto would likely end any other major free-agent pursuits for a few seasons. Given that, it feels unlikely New York will be the one to make him the highest-paid position player in the sport.

Who is Juan Soto’s agent?

Soto’s agent is perhaps the most famous agent in baseball, if not all North American sports: Scott Boras. And if there’s one thing fans know about Boras, it’s that he likes his clients to test their worth on the open market.

According to The Athletic, Soto turned down a massive 15-year, $440 million extension from the Nationals, who were rebuilding at the time. Given their timeline, the Nats decided it would then be in their best interest to trade Soto, which led to his move to the Padres.

By total value, the $440 million extension would rank as the sport’s largest, according to Spotrac. The average annual value at $29.3 million, however, would have lagged behind several other deals, including (though not limited to) the 12-year, $426.5 million extension Mike Trout signed with the Angels, the seven-year, $245 million contract Anthony Rendon signed with the Angels and the 10-year, $341 million extension Francisco Lindor signed with the Mets.

The AAV would rank 17th in 2023, and would have ranked 10th at the time, a far cry from what many would expect of a young phenom who has a case as the sport’s purest hitter.

With Boras as his agent, Soto is almost certainly going to test free agency and see what type of offer he can get on the open market. Shohei Ohtani’s new contract should help set a target point.

Source : ESPN.com

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