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Juan Soto says he’s open to in-season contract talks with the Yankees as All-Star slugger settles in

 The Associated Press  |    May 16th, 2024 6:40pm EDT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Juan Soto has settled in just fine with the Yankees, marveling at the reach and intensity of the fan base, relishing New York’s rich culture and, of course, hitting in a loaded lineup right in front of Aaron Judge.

He’ll have a decision to make sooner than later on whether to re-up, with his first time as a free agent looming in the fall. But perhaps he won’t make it to the open market at all. Soto said Thursday he would give his blessing to contract talks during the season if the Yankees want to approach his agent Scott Boras about a long-term contract.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner told the team’s YES Network he’d consider such a tactic for the three-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger who’s still just 25 years old.

“I think we’d like to see him here for the rest of his career. I don’t think there’s any doubt in that. His agent, Scott, doesn’t tend to do deals in the middle of the season. Neither do I. I think it can be a distraction,” Steinbrenner said in the interview. “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 a season. I think it’s worth doing at some point.”

Soto is batting .302 with nine home runs, 34 RBIs and a .920 OPS in 45 games. He signed a $31 million, one-year contract to avoid salary arbitration after San Diego sent him and outfielder Trent Grisham to New York in a payroll-paring trade in December for catcher Kyle Higashioka and four pitchers.

Asked about Steinbrenner’s comments Thursday after the Yankees finished a sweep of the Minnesota Twins, Soto said his “door has always been open” to doing a new deal before the fall but stressed that he’s simply trying to prioritize playing well and fitting in.

“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 try to help the team win,” Soto said.

Soto in 2022 turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer from the Washington Nationals, betting he’d get a better deal as a free agent after the 2024 season. The Nationals dealt him to the Padres that summer.

Steinbrenner said in the interview with YES that he wanted to give Soto space to get comfortable before broaching the contract subject with his camp.

“Let’s focus on 2024, most importantly, winning a championship this year,” Steinbrenner said.

Soto said he appreciated that. But maybe not as much as having Judge, the 2022 American League MVP, batting behind him.

The Yankees outscored the Twins 14-1 and outhit them 35-14 in the series. Judge’s on-base-plus-slugging percentage surged from .860 to .948 over the last two games when he went 6 for 7 with a homer, five doubles and two walks. Soto didn’t enjoy as much success in the series, going 2 for 11 with three runs, two walks and five strikeouts.

“They pitched him tough, got him a little bit, but that’s why guys don’t hit .500,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It happens in a given series, and he’ll lock it in real quick.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB