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One of the biggest stories of the 2024 season thus far is Juan Soto's MVP-caliber excellence in his first campaign with the New York Yankees. That, naturally enough, is a fitting prelude to what's going to be one of the biggest stories of next offseason: Soto's free agency and the Yankees' prospects of retaining his services beyond 2024. 

This is indeed Soto's walk year, and given his career-long excellence and the fact that he's going to be quite young as free agents go (he doesn't turn 26 until late October), the slugger is headed for a major payday, almost certainly well in excess of $400 million. Soto is represented by Scott Boras, and Boras' highest-profile clients tend to reach the market as soon as possible so as to maximize their career earnings. Even beyond that consideration, players often prefer not to have negotiations taking place during the season. This points to the likelihood that Soto will indeed become a free agent shortly after the World Series, but it's perhaps not a guarantee. 

Speaking of which, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner recently had this to say on the YES Network about talking extension during the season, as Soto and his mates are locked in a struggle with the Orioles at the top of the American League East standings. Via Dave Campbell of the Associated Press

"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. 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."

Steinbrenner's remarks were relayed to Soto, and he gave what may qualify as a surprising response. Campbell writes

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.

The Yankees have effectively limitless resources, which means they can meet whatever Soto's ask might be. Even if he does reach free agency, however, the Yankees may still be considered the favorites to keep him long-term. That, of course, is how they re-upped with franchise slugger Aaron Judge last offseason. 

Soto enters the Yankees' weekend home series against the lowly White Sox with a current slash line of .302 AVG/.403 OBP/.517 with nine home runs in 45 games and more walks than strikeouts. For his career, he boasts an OPS+ of 157 across parts of seven MLB seasons. Among active players, only Mike Trout (173) and Judge (164) have higher OPS+ figures.