We are apparently at the “Bryce Harper is going to be the first $400M player” stage of the ongoing chatter about what it will take for Washington’s Nationals to sign recently-turned 23-year-old outfielder Juan Soto to a long-term extension which will keep the club’s star in D.C. beyond 2024, his final year of team control as of now.
According to a report by ESPN’s Enrique Rojas on Wednesday, the Nationals made a 13-year/$350M offer to Soto before the start of the lockdown in early December 2021.
Soto is quoted in the article acknowledging an offer, which he and his agent, Scott Boras, reportedly turned down.
Juan Soto turned down a 13-year, $350 million contract from the Washington Nationals before the lockout, according to this @Enrique_Rojas1 report. In the story, Soto confirms the offer.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 16, 2022
More from Enrique at @ESPNDeportes: https://t.co/zNnlWTb9Rd
“Yes, they made me the offer a couple of months ago, before the strike we have in baseball,” Soto said, as translated (by our computer) from the original Spanish.
“But right now, me and my agents think that the best option is to go year after year and wait for free agency. My agent, Scott Boras, is in control of that situation,” he added.
“Anyway, in my mind I still have Washington as a place where I would like to spend the rest of my career. We’ll see,” said Soto, who is eligible for free agency after the 2024 season.
An important note from Rojas, considering how the Nationals, as a club, have structured long-term deals in recent years, the latest reported offer to Soto, “... did not include deferred money, a Nationals source told ESPN Digital,” so if he and his agent had agreed to the deal, “... Soto would receive an average salary of almost $27 million until 2034, when he will be 36 years old.”
Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty has since confirmed that the terms of the offer in the ESPN report, and the lack of deferrals, are accurate:
Can confirm @Enrique_Rojas1's reported figures and that there were no deferrals in the Nationals' offer to Juan Soto before the lockout, which is notable even if the two sides didn't agree.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) February 16, 2022
Soto, avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility last winter, agreeing on a 1-year/$8.5M deal with the Nationals for 2021, after earning $629,400 in 2020. Projections for 2022 have the four-year veteran getting a raise to around $16.2M after a World Series championship in 2019, an NL batting title in 2020, and a 2021 season in which the outfielder ranked 1st in the NL in on-base percentage (.465), 1st in walks (145), 1st in OBP w/ RISP (.577) and AVG w/ RISP (.396), 2nd in batting average (.313), OPS (.999), wOBA (.420), wRC+ (163), and runs scored (111), ended up with the third-highest fWAR (6.6), and finished 3rd in SLG w/ RISP (.689) amongst all of the qualified National League hitters.
Through four major league seasons after he debuted as a 19-year-old in 2018, Soto has put up a combined .301/.432/.550 line with 91 doubles and 98 home runs in 464 games and a total of 2,003 plate appearances in the majors.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked earlier this winter about his desire to get Soto signed to a long-term deal so he’s part of the reboot and also the next championship club in D.C.
In an interview with MLB Network High Heat host Christoper Russo, the GM and President of Baseball operations in D.C. said the club has, “... interest in making Juan a National for a very long time.”
“Certainly beyond the three years of control that we have left on him,” Rizzo added.
“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.”
Will the two sides get a deal done before Soto reaches free agency after the 2024 season?
What do you think of the terms of the reported offer of 13 years/$350M? What will it take in the end to get Soto signed on long-term in the nation’s capital?
As Rojas notes in the ESPN report today, the reported $350M offer, “... would be the third largest extension in history, [behind only] the $365 million that Mookie Betts (for 12 years) received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020 and the $360 million that the Los Angeles Angels granted to Mike Trout (10 years) in 2019.”