Are the Yankees Preparing to Cheap Out on MVP Favorite Juan Soto?

New York's payroll is second in MLB at around $305 million

Juan Soto reacts after hitting a two-run home run against the Mariners.
Juan Soto has been hitting bombs since he landed in the Bronx.
Luke Hales/Getty

Following Juan Soto‘s second home run on Wednesday night during New York’s 7-3 victory over the Mariners in the Bronx, the Yankee faithful showered the 25-year-old outfielder with cheers and chants of “M-V-P” swept through the stands like the wave. For Soto, who has now played 51 games for the 34-17 Yankees, it was his 13th home run of the season, putting him just behind clubhouse leader Aaron Judge (14) for most taters on the team.

Making $31 million in his final year of arbitration and set to hit free agency for the first time in his career, Soto, who the Yankees sent five players to the Padres to acquire in December, has set himself up for a massive payday that could net him an annual salary that’s in the same ballpark as what the Dodgers are paying Shohei Ohtani ($70 million). However, it’s far from guaranteed that payday is going to come from the Yankees, who have the second-highest payroll in MLB ($305 million) behind the New York Mets ($307 million) and will be saddled with a large luxury-tax bill because of it.

“They’ve really made me feel comfortable in this lineup, in this clubhouse. I think they’ve been doing a great job for me. I’m enjoying every part of it,” Soto said on Wednesday. “I’m having fun with it. You never know how long it’s going to be like that, so you try to enjoy every second, soak it all in and keep going.”

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Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner, who previously said he wanted to see Soto finish his career in pinstripes, will have a big say in whether the three-time All-Star’s stay in New York keeps going. Speaking with The New York Post, he indicated that the team is trying to trim, not add, payroll, which would certainly make keeping Soto, who is the front-runner to win MVP in the American League, quite hard.

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

Of course, most ownership groups don’t preside over a franchise with a Forbes valuation of $7.55 billion and an estimated revenue of $679 million. A baseball team and a worldwide brand, the Yankees essentially print money and could certainly afford to give some of it, even a large chunk, to Soto to keep him in New York for the next decade. Given that it’s basically been a decade-and-a-half since the Yanks won the World Series, they probably should.

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