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Steinbrenner open to in-season talks with Soto

Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / Getty

New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner seems ready to start contract talks with Juan Soto - if the star outfielder is ready to join him at the table.

"I think that's something that may very well happen," Steinbrenner said on the "Yankee News & Views" podcast with YES Network's Jack Curry. "(Agent Scott Boras) and I have a good relationship, so whether he picks up the phone and calls me or vice versa, that's something that's happened many times in the past, and it can certainly happen again."

Steinbrenner acknowledged that he prefers to avoid the "distraction" of in-season contract negotiations, a belief he shares with Boras. But he also views Soto, who's poised to hit free agency next winter, as a special case.

"I think we'd like to see him here for the rest of his career, I don't think there's any doubt of that," Steinbrenner said. "His agent, Scott, doesn't tend to normally do deals in the middle of a season, (and) neither do I. ... But as I said in spring training when I met with (the media), 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 the season. I think it's worth doing at some point."

The Yankees have been open about the fact that they expect Soto to test free agency no matter how the team fares on the field this year. It's been reported that he'll be asking for a deal similar to Shohei Ohtani's record $700-million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers this past winter, with $500 million as a floor.

Boras responded to Steinbrenner's statements by telling Curry that he's "always happy to talk with Hal," adding that his client's "singular focus is winning."

"My door has been always open," Soto told YES Network about the owner's remarks. "Whenever he wants to start talking with Scott and all those people, they always open, they always open to hearing whatever he has (to say). For me, I just focus on the game right now."

So far, Soto's been everything the Yankees could have hoped for after acquiring him in December. The 25-year-old owns a .302/.403/.517 slash line, ranks second in the AL in both RBIs and OBP, and has taken more walks (30) than strikeouts (29) over 45 games in pinstripes.

Steinbrenner said that he hasn't had too many conversations with Soto yet, largely because he wanted to give Soto time to adjust to life as a Yankee. He's hoping that'll change in the near future, perhaps as soon as next week when he visits the team in New York.

"Again, I wanted to give him some time. This is a big change for him," Steinbrenner said. "But I do want to hear about what he thinks about our organization, how we do things, what we can improve on, and, of course, how he feels about being here. And that's a conversation that will be had."

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