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#pounditFriday, June 14, 2024

Yankees owner sends warning that could loom large in Juan Soto contract talks

Juan Soto with the Yankees

Feb 25, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Juan Soto (22) smiles in the dugout against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are quite open about their desire to retain outfielder Juan Soto beyond the 2024 season. That may be complicated, however, by one goal owner Hal Steinbrenner laid out on Wednesday.

Steinbrenner said the Yankees’ current payroll is not sustainable, and he strongly suggested that the team wants to avoid the luxury tax threshold going forward.

“I’m gonna be honest, payrolls at the levels we’re at right now are simply not sustainable for us financially,” Steinbrenner said, via Dan Martin of the New York Post. “It wouldn’t be sustainable for the vast majority of ownership [groups], given the luxury tax we have to pay.”

Steinbrenner did suggest, however, that the Yankees might be able to retain Soto due to expiring contracts that will come off the books after the 2024 season. While he did not name names, he might be alluding to the likes of Gleyber Torres and Alex Verdugo, who are making just shy of a combined $23 million this season. Soto is making $31 million this season.

The Yankees entered 2024 with a payroll over $296 million. They have about $185 million committed for 2025, with the luxury tax threshold set at $241 million. That leaves the team with about $56 million to spend if they are serious about staying below that threshold.

If Steinbrenner is serious about both goals, the Yankees are facing some challenges. Reports have indicated that Soto will be looking for a huge payday that would require the Yankees to spend the bulk of that free money on his annual salary. They could theoretically do that, but would lose some players in the process that might weaken them at other positions, and would leave them with little wiggle room to upgrade.

Steinbrenner and Soto both had some very optimistic takes on a potential long-term relationship recently. This might raise some doubts about just how realistic that long-term relationship might be.

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