The worst thing the Yankees could've done to Juan Soto prior to his first year in pinstripes -- other than assigning him Marcus Stroman as a locker mate -- would've been taking him to an arbitration hearing.
With such a difficult winter of negotiating ahead of them next year, en route to a $500+ million contract somewhere, Brian Cashman and the Yankees couldn't afford to create lingering bad feelings with Soto and his camp (Scott Boras) that could fester throughout the year. Of course, they're only one year removed from threatening to fight Aaron Judge in court in the middle of a contract year, but ... at least they might've learned their lesson.
MLB insider Jon Heyman noted early Thursday afternoon that the expectation was Soto and the Yankees would settle at a record-setting number, one year after Shohei Ohtani broke the $30 million mark. The only remaining disagreement was what, exactly, that record total would be.
Naturally, just a few minutes before the 8:00 PM deadline, Joel Sherman broke the dam, announcing the Yankees and Soto had shaken hands on $31.5 million (though it was later confirmed by Heyman that the number was actually $31 million). No harm, no foul, no unnecessary Randy Levine spittle in a boardroom.
Juan Soto contract details: Which Yankees players reached arbitration agreements?
Now, the hard part doesn't come until after 2024. Soto was going to play for the Yankees in '24, no matter what happened on Thursday. It was just a matter of his mood, which appears to have been appeased.
The Yankees faced possible hearings with several of their other core players following Thursday's deadline, with Gleyber Torres' inflated deal raising alarms. Just before the deadline, Soto's fellow ex-Padre Trent Grisham got paid, settling at $5.5 million. Other prominent Yankees who settled include Alex Verdugo ($8.7 million), Clay Holmes ($6 million), Nestor Cortes Jr. ($3.95 million), Jonathan Loaisiga ($2.5 million), Clarke Schmidt ($2.025 million), and Jose Trevino ($2.73 million).
Torres? The Yankees took care of him, too. Though he was projected for an inflated $15+ million figure that we estimated might scare off the Bombers, the two sides found common ground.
Torres and Soto are two Yankees the team would benefit greatly by keeping happy this season, in potential walk years for both parties. So far, so good, as New York managed to buck the odds and agree with all 10 arbitration-eligible players.
It's a new dawn. It's a new day. And nobody's furious.