Talking with reporters at the GM Meetings last week, Juan Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, said his client wants to see that the Washington Nationals are determined to compete before there’s any talk of the 23-year-old outfielder signing on long-term in the nation’s capital.
“Juan Soto wants to win,” Boras explained, and given that the club kicked off a reboot with a series of deals (which sent eight players, seven on expiring contracts, around the league at the trade deadline last July), it makes sense that he and his agent might have questions that they want answered. “So the first thing that’s going to have to happen, is that he knows that he’s working with an ownership that’s going to annually try to compete and win and then I think once he knows that then he’ll be ready to sit down and talk whenever they choose to talk.”
“I just know that Juan Soto has mentioned to me that he wants to make sure he’s working for a club that’s going to compete annually,” Boras added.
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, responding indirectly to the concerns expressed by Boras, pointed to the last decade as proof of the organization’s determination to compete annually.
“For ten years, we’ve contended for championships,” Rizzo said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty.
“We won one of them. We won four divisions and a wild card. We’ve competed for titles and won more games than just about everybody in this league except for [three] teams.”
Rizzo was clear as well that he wants Soto to be a part of the future in D.C., beyond just the three years of team control left before he would reach free agency after the 2024 season.
“We’ve made it known that we want Juan to be a long-term National,” Rizzo told The Washington Post at MLB’s general managers’ meetings.
“It’s no secret. We’ve talked to the player himself; we talked to Scott [Boras] before. … As of this point, he and I haven’t sat down and discussed it in depth. But we’ve spoken in generalities and that type of thing, and he knows our thought process on it. It will be something we want to talk to him about — being here for a long, long time.”
Talking shortly after the club traded away Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Jon Lester, Josh Harrison, and Yan Gomes, all of whom were on expiring contracts, and one year-plus of control of Trea Turner, Rizzo said that the club already had Soto under long-term control, telling reporters, “I like to say we have a long-term deal with him now.”
“It’s a three-year, long-term deal,” he explained, “so that’s a good thing to have an excellent player on your team for three years.”
Rizzo was clear last week, however, that they want Soto around longer than that.
“We’re not in the mindset where we got him under control for three more years and have three years to wait,” Rizzo told the WaPost’s Dougherty. “That’s not our view.”
The GM in D.C. reiterated that stance when he spoke with Christopher Russo on the MLB Network show High Heat this weekend.
“We have interest in making Juan a National for a very long time,” Rizzo said.
“Certainly beyond the three years of control that we have left on him. Those are decisions that we’ll discuss at the highest levels of the organization, but our mindset is that we’d like to make Juan Soto a long-term piece of not only the rebuild, but the championship run that we feel that we have in us.
“We’re going to build around him, he’s the main cog in our developmental plan as an organization and not only — you’ve heard me say this a lot — when we give out these long-term deals, you’re giving deals to the person more so than the player, and he’s a terrific player, but a better person.”
As they continue building back up around Soto this offseason, adding to all the players that remain, prospects they got at the trade deadline, and the talent still in the organization from previous draft classes, Rizzo said, there are a number of obvious items on the organizational wishlist, starting, of course, with pitching.
“I think you never have enough pitching, starting and relieving,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to certainly address that... and we need to see some of our young players take the next step forward in their development. We got Luis Garcia, who’s a 21-year-old second baseman, has shown signs of playing well. Carter Kieboom at third base, the same thing, he showed flashes of being a good player, but they’ve got to play and perform at a level that is more consistent.
“Josh Bell had a terrific season for us and he’ll be back at first base. And we like our catching corps, so it all starts on the mound for us, we’ll have to address that situation, and ... we certainly could use a bat or two to surround Soto and Bell with, and so that’s kind of our wish list. We’ve got options of going in different directions with some different skill sets, but that’s more or less what we’re locked in on at this point.”