Just Ask Scott:
Juan Soto was less than thrilled with the latest stories about how he reportedly turned down a 15-year/$440M extension offer from the Washington Nationals. He told reporters as much.
Soto talked in the Nats’ clubhouse shortly after Ken Rosenthal’s article at The Athletic was published, with the senior writer and MLB Network analyst reporting Washington offered their 23-year-old slugger another extension which, as Rosenthal wrote, “... would have made him the highest-paid player in baseball history,” and since he reportedly turned it down, “... the team now plans to entertain trade offers for him, a seismic development leading to the Aug. 2 deadline.”
Rosenthal noted GM Mike Rizzo has previously stressed the club would not trade Soto, but said things might have changed with the latest developments.
“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.”
Soto declined to comment on the chatter, referring any questions on his contract status to his agent, Scott Boras.
“Anything that you want to know, just ask Scott, he has everything for you guys, for me, I’m just going to keep playing baseball,” Soto said.
But he was not happy details of negotiations went public ... again.
“It feels really bad to see stuff going out like that,” he said.
“I’m the guy who keeps everything — my side, I keep everything quiet, and try to keep it just them and me, but they just take the decision and do whatever they need to do.”
His manager, Davey Martinez, said he would talk to the young star, and make sure he’s able to handle it all and stay focused on the task at hand.
“I’ll definitely talk to him and just tell him that sometimes you just got to let things play out,” Martinez said. “That’s why we have agents, right? They’ll handle that kind of business, but I’ll tell him just continue to go out there and be you, and understand — what he tells me all the time is that he loves the game of baseball, and that’s what he plays for, so, ‘Go out there and just play and have fun, and don’t worry about what’s going to happen. At the end of the day, you’re going to get what you deserve, we all know that, and for me I hope it’s here. ‘Cause I love the kid.’ I don’t ever think that he’s anything else but a Washington National, and that’s the way I’m going to view it right now, he is a Washington National.”
Soto is still, of course, 23 years old, and it would not be too surprising if this stuff became a distraction, but Martinez said he thinks his outfielder can handle it.
“He’s young,” Martinez explained, “and I’m sure when things like that come out that are personal, it bothers people. I’m sure it bothers him a lot. But like I said, he’s got to understand that it’s part of the game. We’ve all been through it at some point in time, but he’s got to go out there and remember why he’s here, and that’s to help us win games, and I know he’ll do that.”
Soto, for his part, said he just wants to play for a winning organization, which, considering he came up in 2018, and won a World Series in 2019, also makes sense, but the reality is it doesn’t always work that way.
Getting stuck in a reboot early in his career can’t be easy, and as his agent said this past winter, he wants to know the Nationals are committed to fielding competitive teams if a long-term commitment is in the future.
“Juan Soto wants to win,” Boras explained, 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.”
Considering the current ownership is exploring the possibility of selling the franchise, some of that might be difficult right now.
“I want to win every year,” Soto said on Saturday.
“I don’t want to keep losing, I hate losing, but it is what it is. At the end of the day we’ve just got to go through it, because as they told me, we all have to go through those moments to win a championship.”
Nelson Cruz left the second game of four with the Braves in D.C. in the sixth on Friday night, with a quad issue, and he wasn’t in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game, with his skipper explaining before the third game of the series that they will be cautious with their recently-turned 42-year-old, 18-year veteran.
“He’s still a little sore, so he’s going to be day-to-day. We’ll check up on him. Hopefully he’s available to pinch hit later in the game,” Martinez said.
With the All-Star Break a day away, rushing Cruz back, versus giving the veteran some time to heal (before the trade deadline) might be the smart move.
“I want to make sure that he’s healthy and comes out of this without any other issues,” the fifth-year manager said. “But he’s been smart, this whole year with me and telling me how his body feels, so if he’s available to pinch hit I’ll use him and then hopefully tomorrow we’ll see how he feels.”
So far they haven’t felt the need to get any tests done, but Martinez said they would if it did not improve.
“I think if he doesn’t feel good today, we’ll send him out and get him an MRI and then we’ll go from there.”
Keibert Ruiz The DH:
Keibert Ruiz got his first start as a designated hitter on Saturday, with Tres Barrera behind the plate and Nelson Cruz unavailable. He was excited about the opportunity to be in the lineup even when he wasn’t behind the dish.
“I talked to him last night and he said he was totally fine,” Martinez said before the third of four with the Braves in D.C.
“I asked him, I said, ‘Hey, you want to DH, and without hesitation he said, ‘Oh, yeah.’
“So we’ll give him a chance to go out there and get some at-bats again today, especially right-handed.
“But I thought yesterday he swung the bat really well right-handed. But we’re looking for some kind of offense, and we’ll put him out there today and see what happens.”
On the year, the switch-hitting backstop had a .264/.322/.381 line against right-handed pitchers in 214 plate appearances, and a .226/.300/.274 line against lefties on the year.
Ruiz went 0 for 4 with an RBI groundout in the Nationals’ 6-3 loss.