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Deflecting questions about long-term deal, Juan Soto looks forward to playing with Yankees in 2024

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Deflecting questions about long-term deal, Juan Soto looks forward to playing with Yankees in 2024
AP
RONALD BLUM
December 12, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — Juan Soto put on a New York Yankees cap for a Zoom news conference.

“It's just a different feeling,” he said Tuesday, looking ahead to a Bronx fan base that is devoted, demanding and demeaning, “Definitely just a great vibe, a great feeling to be playing in New York and in that stadium — the fans, the crowd is just incredible. Even when they weren't cheering for me, they were really booing me and everything. I really enjoyed my time there, It was pretty cool for me.”

Soto spoke six days after he was acquired by the Yankees from San Diego along with Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grisham for right-handed pitchers Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez and Drew Thorpe plus catcher Kyle Higashioka.

The three-time All-Star outfielder, who turned 25 in October, is projected to earn about $32 million next season and can become a free agent after the World Series.

Soto was playing Nintendo when Padres general manager A.J. Preller called to tell him of the trade to New York, coming off its worst season since 1992. He deflected questions about a possible long-term deal with the Yankees, saying the team can deal with his agent, Scott Boras.

“I have one of the best agents in the league, so I think I put everything on him and let him do his magic for me,” Soto said. “Any contract stuff, they know where to call and who to talk to.”

Speaking from Miami, wearing a chain with his No. 22 dangling, Soto said he was looking forward to seeing how big 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge and 6-foot-6 Giancarlo Stanton appear from up close. Soto said Judge, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres either got in touch or left messages.

Soto has four homers in six career games and 23 at-bats in Yankee Stadium. He homered twice on June 13, 2018, a go-ahead, three-run shot just over the wall in the left-field corner against Sonny Gray and a 436-foot tiebreaking drive over the Yankees bullpen in right-center against Chasen Shreve. Soto hit a 424-foot shot into the visitor's bullpen in left against Luis Cessa on May 7, 2021; and a 432-foot drive into the right field second deck off Vásquez on May 26.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Soto looks forward to playing regularly in front of a fan base with many Dominicans, in a area where uncles and friends live.

“It’s a great ballpark. It's a great batter's box. It feels great to stand up there,” Soto said.

New York finished with a .227 batting average, 29th among the 30 teams, and was 25th in runs with 673. The Yankees have added three left-handed hitters in Soto, Grisham and Alex Verdugo.

Soto hit .275 with 35 homers, 109 RBIs and a .930 OPS in his only full season with the Padres, who obtained him from Washington on Aug. 2, 2022, after he turned down a $440 million, 15-year offer from the Nationals.

Adjusting to the pitch clock took time.

“I feel more comfortable with it. I really didn’t like it at the beginning of spring training,” he said. “I take my time and I like to think what I’m going to do on a play.”

Soto has a .284 batting average with 160 homers, 483 RBIs and a .946 OPS in six major league seasons, winning a World Series title with Washington in 2019.

“I'm more than excited to go from one team that has the chance to win a championship to another one,” he said. “Winning, that’s all I care about. I come to the field thinking about winning every day, and that’s what I wanted to do. I got a little taste of it in 2019.”

___

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

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