We have, for the most part, studiously avoided all the Juan Soto is going to get traded talk going around the internet in the last few weeks, with multiple writers (or the hopeful rival executives they talk to) suggesting with no long-term extension two and a half seasons away from free agency, the ownership’s reported attempts to sell the team, and the state of things early in Washington’s organizational reboot plan, the 23-year-old outfielder could be dealt.
“[R]ival execs say the Nationals might well be compelled — and motivated — to move Soto this summer,” Buster Olney wrote recently at ESPN.com.
“Why would the Lerners or the team’s next owners want to alienate Nationals fans by depriving them of one of the best, most exciting players in the sport more than two years before he is in position to depart on his own?” The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote, summing up the argument for why a Soto trade doesn’t make sense right now pretty acutely.
Still, there are articles everywhere on the internet arguing why each of the other 29 teams in the majors makes the most sense as a trade destination for Soto. But, at least according to the GM in D.C., Mike Rizzo, don’t hold your breath waiting to see Soto in a new uniform.
“We are not trading Juan Soto,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies during his weekly visit on Wednesday morning. “We made it clear to his agent and to the player. And these are all — I understand that these journalists have to — they’ve got to fill a blank sheet of paper every day, it’s a good thing to get some attention on a story, but we have every intention of building this team around Juan Soto and we’ve spoken to his agent many, many times recently, sat with him when he was in Washington, D.C., made it clear to him that we are not interested in trading him, and I guess the rest of the world just doesn’t believe it, but that’s our position.”
Soto did, of course, turn down what was reportedly a 13-year/$350M extension offer just before the start of the lockout this past winter, and there has not been much talk (aside from what Rizzo just said above) of further discussions between the player, his agent, and the team since.
But, yeah, the Nationals aren’t trading Soto right now.
Rizzo talked about what the club has in their right fielder when asked about watching Soto take batting practice, and what sets him apart from other hitters.
“He’s different, there’s no doubt about it,” Rizzo said. “You can tell by the sound of his BP who’s in the batter’s box and who’s in the batting cage and that type of thing. He’s got barrel recognition, he’s got pitch recognition, he’s got the power, the quickness, the bat speed, the balance, he’s got the whole hitting package, and he’s as good as anybody that’s ever played the game, and he’s as good as anybody in the league, and he’s a National, and we’re proud of that. And we couldn’t be happier that he was signed and developed here and has become a star here for us. And done a lot of things: Runner up to an MVP, World Series champ, a batting title, a couple Silver Sluggers, yeah, he’s pretty good, and he’s younger than about 60% of the guys on the prospects lists today.
“He’s a very unique player, very elite player. These guys come around once a generation, and fortunately for the Nationals we’ve had a couple of these generational type of talents.”
And the next generation? That’s reach for a transition, but the Nationals are lined up to add another Soto to the organization.
Rumors have them signing Soto’s younger brother when he is able to sign this coming winter.
Rizzo’s scouting report on Elian Soto?
“His brother is a good, solid player,” Rizzo said. “He’s 16-and-a-half years old. We will see how good he is when he’s 18 and 20, and just like his brother he’s a good, solid player that we liked and we made a big effort to sign him, and when we officially sign him at the signing period, he’ll begin his Nationals career. But like Juan, a terrific kid, with a great personality, a great work ethic, and he’s going to give everything he has when the time comes to put on that Nats uniform officially.”