Scott Boras, Juan Soto’s agent, said earlier this winter his client wants to see Washington’s Nationals are determined to compete before there’s any talk of the 23-year-old signing any long-term deal in the nation’s capital.
“Juan Soto wants to win,” Boras explained, “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.
Soto, who signed with the Nationals out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5M in 2015, and then debuted in the majors as a 19-year-old in ‘18, (before winning a World Series with the club in 2019), is under team control through the 2024 campaign, so there’s some time to work out a deal, and in spite of the club’s sell-off at last July 30th’s trade deadline which kicked off an organizational reboot, GM Mike Rizzo responded to those comments by Boras by explaining how a decade of success (including ‘19’s World Series championship) should be proof enough of the desire to win in D.C.
“For ten years, we’ve contended for championships,” Rizzo said in early November 2021, 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 at the time he wants Soto to remain in Washington beyond the next three seasons:
“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.”
And to be clear, by a “long, long time,” Rizzo meant beyond the three years of team control which remain.
“We’re not in the mindset where we got [Soto] under control for three more years and have three years to wait,” Rizzo told the WaPost. “That’s not our view.”
At some point around that time, according to reports in the past few weeks, the Nationals made a 13-year/$350M to Soto, which the now-23-year-old and his agent turned down.
“Yes, they made me the offer a couple of months ago, before the strike we have in baseball,” Soto said, as quoted in a report by ESPN’s Enrique Rojas.
“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.”
So turning down $350M? That’s bold, but under... stand... able?
“These are always such tough discussions,” Soto’s teammate, Ryan Zimmerman, who retired after a 16-year career earlier this month, told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies last week.
“Because first of all, whenever I hear any sort of contract details in the media, I first of all just don’t believe any of it, just because you just never know. Both sides have motives and have things that they want to be put out in the media, so obviously the team wants things to be put out to show that they’re offering legit contracts. And obviously the players wants things — $350M? If someone put a piece of paper in front of me that said that much money on it, that’s a tough decision, that’s obviously a whole lot of money, and then fans are like, ‘Well, how can he turn that down?’
That’s a good rhetorical question, future TV/radio/analyst guy. Explique moi s’il te plait?
“You have to kind of dive into the system to see what he’s turning down,” Zimmerman told the Junkies, “... and what he basically has coming to him. I mean, the arbitration system is almost better than being a free agent right now, and he’s going to get four years of that. I’m pretty sure he set the record for a first-year player as a Super Two, I don’t know what the number was, I want to say it was like $8-9M, something like that, so basically how the arbitration system works is it stacks on top of each other, so he’s got four years of earning ability in front of him to where basically if he’s just league average for the next year he’s going to go to from $8M up to probably $12-$13M or even more and then probably up to $20M, and then up to $25M or $30M.
[ed. note - “FWIW, MLBTR has Soto getting a raise to around $16.2M in 2022, so a bit more than Zim’s estimate, though he was, of course, speaking extemporaneously, and is making lots of sense.”]
“And everyone says, ‘How can he turn that down?’ Well, he’s guaranteed already basically $60-$75M. It’s obviously not $350M, but that’s more than you’ll ever need,” Zimmerman continued.
“So, he’s got that, and I’m sure Scott [Boras] has him insured to where if he does get hurt that he’s got some sort of insurance on him to where he gets $100-$200M, so there’s other [factors in play] that I think fans don’t know about.
“And then for the tougher question of: ‘Are they going to sign him?’ I mean I think, I don’t want to say they have to sign him, but once you trade Trea [Turner], basically Trea and Juan were the two young guys they knew that those were going to come up at some point — so it’s just the way the lay of the landscape of professional sports and baseball is, and if you have a top five player in the league they’re going to make somewhere between $30-$40M a year, and if teams weren’t making enough money to afford him then they wouldn’t sign him, but teams are signing them.”