Juan Soto is open to contract talks during the season with the Yankees

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

He will have a decision to make sooner rather than later on whether or not to return, with his debut as a free agent looming in the fall. But it probably won’t ever reach the open market. Soto said Thursday that he would give his blessing to contract talks during the season if the Yankees wanted to approach his agent Scott Boras about a long-term contract.

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

“We would like to see him here for the rest of his career. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. His agent, Scott, doesn’t tend to do mid-season deals, and neither do I. I think he could be a distraction,” Steinbrenner said in the interview. “But like I said in spring training… this is a unique situation and a very unique player, so I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s a conversation or two over the course of the season. “I think it’s worth doing.” At some point.

Soto is hitting .302 with 9 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .920 OPS in 45 games. He signed a one-year, $31 million contract to avoid salary arbitration after San Diego sent him and outfielder Trent Grisham to New York in a December payroll-cutting deal for catcher Kyle Higashioka and four pitchers.

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Asked about Steinbrenner’s comments Thursday after the Yankees finished sweeping the Minnesota Twins, Soto said his “door was always open” to a new deal before the fall but stressed that he is simply trying to prioritize playing well and getting fit.

“They know the phone number and everything. They know where to call. For me here, I’m focused on playing baseball. My goal is to 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 would 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 feel comfortable before broaching the contract topic with his camp.

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

Soto said he appreciates that. But perhaps not as much as having Judge, the 2022 American League MVP, behind him.

The Yankees outscored the Twins 14-1 and outscored them 35-14 in the Series. Judge’s on-base plus slugging percentage rose from .860 to .948 over the last two games when he went 6-for-7 with a homer, 5 doubles and 2 walks. Soto did not enjoy the same amount of success in the Series, going 2-for-11 with 3 runs scored, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts.

“They hit him hard, caught him a little bit, but that’s why guys didn’t hit .500,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It happens in a certain series, and he’ll shut it down pretty quickly.”

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