Now that we know Hal Steinbrenner would like to make Juan Soto “a Yankee for life” and is willing to negotiate during the season to do it, there’s only one question Steinbrenner has to ask Soto’s agent, Scott Boras:

“How much?”

Not as in how much money does Soto want. That number will be so astronomically high as to render any early guesses woefully short.

No, in this case, the “how much” refers to how much extra money it will take to keep Soto away from Steve Cohen.

You’ve heard about the “Steve Cohen Tax” on high payrolls? The real Cohen Tax for Steinbrenner is the extra $100 million or so it’s going to take to sign Soto before he hits the open market.

Once Soto is free to talk to every team, all the stories about his love for Yankees fans (seems genuine) and the Yankees fans' love for him (definitely genuine) will mean less than nothing.

Think about it: Have we ever seen the Yankees and Mets go toe-to-toe in a negotiation for a prime free agent?

Juan Soto's stats

AVG / OBP / SLG: .302 / .403* / .517

HR: 9

2B: 8

RBI: 34*

R: 30*

BB: 30*

H: 52*

* ranks in MLB top 10

Both were hot after Yoshinobu Yamamoto last offseason, but there were a lot of other bidders, too, and Yamamoto spurned both New York teams to join Shohei Ohtani on the Dodgers.

The Soto Sweepstakes, if it gets that far, will look like one of those high-priced art auctions. Only a few clubs will have the dough to even get an invite. Picture Steinbrenner and Cohen holding up their numbered cards as the auctioneer — in this case, a grinning Boras — keeps upping the ante for one of the best players of this generation, a rare talent who won't turn 26 until Oct. 25.

Can Steinbrenner outbid Cohen for such a player? The Yankees and their owner are regular-guy rich. Cohen is the richest owner in MLB. So if it comes down to pure cash, Cohen can keep bidding until Steinbrenner has to fold.

This is the world in which Cohen operates. Remember, he owns more than $1 billion in art, according to Fortune. When Cohen decided he just had to have a Warhol or a Picasso hanging on his wall, he made it happen.

If Cohen decides he just has to have Soto in rightfield at Citi Field, and he gets the chance, he’ll probably make that happen, too.

That’s why the news from Steinbrenner on Thursday, as related on YES Network’s Jack Curry podcast, and Soto’s reaction should get Steinbrenner to dial up Boras as fast as he can.

Soto, as smooth in contract talks as he is in the batter’s box, said exactly the right thing when he was told that Steinbrenner indicated a willingness to talk during the season, which is something the Yankees rarely do.

“My door’s always open,” said Soto, who hit two home runs into the rightfield bleachers, drove in three runs and went 4-for-4 with a walk on Saturday in the Yankees' 6-1 victory over the White Sox.  “Whenever he wants to start talking with Scott and all his people . . . They’re always open to hear whatever he has [to say]. For me, I just focus on the game right now . . .  My thing is try to help the team to win as [many] games as we can and try to focus on winning a championship.”

Chef’s kiss. No notes.

What’s it going to take to not just sign Soto but to keep him away from Cohen? Well, in 2022, Soto turned down a reported 15-year, $440 million extension offer from Washington. Last offseason,  Ohtani signed a heavily deferred 10-year, $700 million free-agent contract with the Dodgers.

So figure somewhere closer to $700 million than $440 million. And given Soto’s age, 15 years seems about right.

But the total years and dollars don’t really matter. All that should matter to Steinbrenner is to happily pay the Cohen Tax and then spend the next 15 years looking out to rightfield in the Bronx at the one who didn't get away. Not to Queens. Not this guy.


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