Could the New York Mets, New York Yankees Bid a Juan Soto Contract Into Record Territory?

After the New York Yankees traded five players to the San Diego Padres in December to acquire Juan Soto, the outfielder quickly began proving his worth.

Through Tuesday, Soto was among the early American League leaders with five home runs, 20 RBIs, 15 runs scored, and a .432 on-base percentage. Thanks to some surprisingly productive play in left field, he’s also tied for the AL lead in FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement.

The 2024 season is shaping into a historic walk year for the 25-year-old. The only question is, how historic — and how big is the contract awaiting him on the other side?

There’s plenty of baseball to be played between now and the end of the World Series, when 30 teams can officially begin bidding on Soto. A lot can change in six months, but if Soto is still healthy and productive come winter, he’ll be in for a massive payday. And one national writer believes that payday could be more massive than any player’s in history.

Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani
DENVER, CO – JULY 12: Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels participates in a first round matchup as opponent Juan Soto looks on, during the 2021 T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Coors Field on…

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani’s 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed last December, set a record for a professional athlete in terms of its value. Ohtani is deferring $680 million in payouts until after his final season with the Dodgers, in 2033.

Adjusting Ohtani’s deferred salary for its present-day value, the MLB Players Association calculated the total value of the contract at $437,830,563. The annual IRS mid-term rate outlined in baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement pins the total contract value slightly higher — $460.8 million. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic believes Soto can beat that number.

“I will bet you right now he gets more than that,” Rosenthal said on the Foul Territory podcast with retired catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

When Pierzynski asked which teams could afford such a contract, Rosenthal quickly identified the Yankees and New York Mets.

“(The Yankees) can afford him,” Rosenthal said. “The Mets will have a lot more payroll flexibility at the end of the season. And I would expect for Juan Soto you will see other teams enter the fray as well. It’s Juan Soto, man, he’s going to be 26 next season as a free agent going into the market. He’s going to do really well.

“He turned down $440 (million) for 15 (years). He’s going to do better than that. He’s going to do better than Ohtani’s present-day value.”

The prediction practically requires a bidding war between large-market franchises to come true. That’s effectively what pushed Ohtani’s contract into record territory; the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Toronto Blue Jays were all willing to pay the $700 million premium in the end.

Unlike Ohtani, Soto doesn’t pitch. However, each year presents unique market conditions, and this year could be the time for Soto to cash in. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman certainly sounded awestruck by Soto’s talent this week when he told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM “We’d love to have him for a long time.”

Cashman certainly isn’t alone in that sentiment. The Mets could choose to make Soto the face of their multi-year rebuilding effort. A mystery team could enter the fray.

In any event, Rosenthal’s prediction gave fans of the baseball hot stove action something to look forward to. Let the Juan Soto free agency speculation begin.