“Juan Soto is available.” - The words no right-thinking Nationals fan wants to hear opened Ken Rosenthal’s article today at The Athletic, with the senior writer reporting Washington offered 23-year-old slugger Juan Soto a 15-year/$440M extension which, “... would have made him the highest-paid player in baseball history, and the team now plans to entertain trade offers for him, a seismic development leading to the Aug. 2 deadline,” since Soto and agent Scott Boras reportedly turned the offer down.
“Soto would have received an average salary of $29.33 million, the 20th-highest in baseball history,” Rosenthal writes, “with the deal extending from his ages 24 to 38 seasons,” so the deal would, “effectively [make] him a National for the rest of his career.”
Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, told reporters over the winter his client wanted to see the team was committed to winning before making such a long-term commitment, considering the reboot they kicked off towards the end of his fourth big league campaign when they dealt away players on expiring contracts in return for prospects to bolster the organization after years of competing for the postseason and dealing prospects to help the big league club.
“Juan Soto wants to win,” Boras explained at the time, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty. “So the first thing that’s gonna have to happen is that he knows that he’s working with an ownership that’s gonna 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.”
BREAKING: Juan Soto rejects $440M offer. Nationals will now entertain trading him. Story: https://t.co/u4ubuImb2S— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 16, 2022
As Rosenthal notes, back in early June, GM Mike Rizzo said despite the rumors of the club potentially considering dealing Soto sooner than later if an agreement on an extension is not reached before he is a free agent following the 2024 season, they would not trade the current face of the franchise in D.C.
“We are not trading Juan Soto,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies during his weekly visit to the show. “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.”
That was then, of course, this is [reportedly] now.
“Soto’s rejection of $440 million, however, altered the equation, sources said, leaving club officials believing that if they cannot sign him for that money, they never will,” Rosenthal wrote today, so the Nationals now, “view their exploration of a Soto trade as due diligence.”
If they don’t get an offer they like now, with Soto emerging from a slow start for the second season in a row, they have time to continue to talk extension or trades with two more years of team control before he’ll reach free agency.
Did the Nationals take lessons from previous negotiations with the likes of Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner? Harper and Rendon walked after talks on extensions didn’t lead to deals, and Turner was dealt as part of the sell-off at last year’s deadline with a year and a half of team control remaining because he brought a significant prospect return from Los Angeles’s Dodgers when he was traded along with Max Scherzer.
Which way will the Nationals go this time around? Rosenthal is not the only one hearing the latest chatter, and as MASN’s Mark Zuckerman notes below, Soto’s not thrilled the details of their talks are out there... Where do you see this going? If Soto’s not taking 15/$440M is the move to consider deals before this year’s August 2nd trade deadline the right one?
A source just confirmed to me that the Nationals did in fact offer Juan Soto $440M over 15 years without deferments and he has turned their offer down.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) July 16, 2022
The offer would have been the largest in MLB history (topping Mike Trout's $426.5M)
Can confirm @Ken_Rosenthal’s report that the Nationals offered Juan Soto a 15-year, $440 million deal that he turned down. And as Ken said, that makes the Nationals more likely to entertain trade offers (now and in the future).— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 16, 2022
Juan Soto declined $440M, 15-year offer from Nats and will be available now. A few reasons he declined: 1. Heavy backloading of deal is tantamount to big deferral 2. $29M AAV is seen as old figure in light of Scherzer, other deals 3. Team is likely to be sold so owner unknown.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 16, 2022
Juan Soto just spoke with a few of us for a couple minutes in the clubhouse. Redirected any questions about today’s news to Scott Boras, but did acknowledge frustration that this is now out in the public. Stressed he has always kept contract negotiations private.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) July 16, 2022
The Juan Soto 15-year, $440 million contract offer was heavily backloaded the last six years, reducing the overall value. The biggest reason for rejecting the offer was that the $29.3M annual average value ranks only 20th now, and pales in comparison to Max Scherzer's $43.3M AAV— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 16, 2022