Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Washington Nationals’ front office were in draft-mode mid-week last week, so he didn’t make his regular appearance with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies as all those Juan Soto contract/trade rumors were flying around during the All-Star Break, but Rizzo was back this Wednesday to discuss the chatter out there about what the future holds for their 23-year-old slugger in the nation’s capital.
Soto, according to reports before the All-Star Break, turned down a 15-year/$440M offer from the Nationals, who then decided they’d have to entertain offers for the outfielder at this point, with two and a half years of control before he reaches free agency. So was all that reporting accurate?
“That’s the thing,” Rizzo explained, “... because reports come out all the time. We’ve made three — what we feel [are] — three above-market-value offers to Juan during this baseball season. You know, [details on] two of them had come out before this one. Both of them were inaccurate in the terms and in kind of the guts of the contract. This one was accurate and that led us to believe it was somebody, with obviously, with real knowledge of this situation, whereas the other ones were inaccurate, so those could be — that information could be leaked out there by people who really don’t know or who are guessing or who think they have the information.”
This time, the details were accurate, as he said, so the leak came from someone involved in the talks, and the fact they got out there bothered Rizzo, and Soto, who said over the break he wasn’t sure what to think after the club, and Rizzo in particular, said they were not going to trade him a month earlier.
“A couple weeks ago, they were saying they will never trade me,” Soto said during his All-Star media availability in LA, where the Nationals wrapped up a three-game series with a loss on Wednesday, though they won 2 of 3 from the Dodgers in the series.
“And now all these things come out,” Soto continued, “it feels really uncomfortable. You don’t know what to trust. At the end of the day, it’s out of my hands what decision they make.”
The leak of the details didn’t sit well with Rizzo either.
“Leaks are just so difficult,” he told the Junkies. “In this age of social media, who knows where some of these things come from. But all I can tell you is unequivocally it did not come from me, for sure, 100 percent for sure, or from our front office.
“That much I know for sure.
“We had this information three weeks before it leaked out. So we had ample time to leak it out if we wanted to leak it out. It’s — leaks never, ever help a situation. It was disappointing to me. I was upset about it. It’s something that I would just like to know who leaked it out just to have that information and make sure it didn’t come from anybody in [our] baseball operations.”
He wasn’t placing the blame on Soto’s side, or on his agent, Scott Boras, to be clear, but he said he didn’t know how the accurate details got out there this time.
“I don’t know who did it. I guess [Ken] Rosenthal’s the one who broke it, so really only Ken knows who actually came to him with the information. I’d like to find out with that. All I can tell you is that Mike Rizzo did not leak the information or his people in the front office. That’s what I know 100 percent. It did not help us in anything we’re trying to do. It didn’t help us in keeping a good relationship with Juan. And it didn’t help us in any kind of leverage at the trade deadline. It really didn’t help us. It really hurt us that the information got out. And it’s not the right thing to do.
“We’ve had 100 negotiations with the Boras Corporation over my career, and we never leaked out the information and it was disappointing that this information got leaked out.”
So, the contract details, and Soto turning it down, were both accurate reports, but what about the fact the Nationals are now listening to offers for their right fielder?
“Here’s how the situation goes: This was the ultimate respectful interaction with Juan,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“We’ve made him several offers. We’ve made sure that he knows that we want him here for the rest of his career. And ... this is business. It’s not personal. This is business.
“He has the right to go to free agency, to turn down deals and that type of thing.
“I respect that as a player that he has earned that right. But my relationship with the players is nothing but — it is nothing if it’s not we’re man to man and we discuss things face to face. And when we offered Juan this contract, with his agent’s knowledge, we told him when the deal was turned down, we said, ‘We’re going to have to explore all our options.’ And that’s all we’ve ever said. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t explore all the options that now present us. We’ve got a pretty good option. We’ve got the talented Juan Soto for two and a half more seasons, that’s option A. That’s a good one. But we’ve also got to think about options B and C. And how we — my job is to make this organization a consummate winner again, like we did from 2012-2019. Be a consistent winner. And I have to figure out ways as the caretaker of this franchise to make us a championship organization for a long time to come.”
And the reporting on Soto and Boras balking at the AAV in the 15-year/$440M offer, and talking about the uncertainty at the ownership level with the Lerner family exploring the possibility of selling the team?Are those aspects of the stories out there accurate?
“I’ve had those discussions with Scott and with Juan personally,” Rizzo said, “and those are private conversations that I’m going to keep between us.
“But I’m sure all those those reasons factor into the decisions that he made. Again, I do not take this as an affront to the Washington Nationals. I don’t take this personally. This is a young, exciting, talented player who has every right to explore the market as he sees fit.
“We’ve made a historical offer to him, and he turned it down.
“And again, am I upset with Juan Soto for doing that? No. I’ve known the kid since he’s 15 years old. I know him as good as anybody in the world, as good as his agency, as good as his teammates. I’ve been with him a long time and he’s one of the most wonderful players that I’ve ever been around and I respect the choices that he made. Again, this isn’t personal against Mike Rizzo or the Washington Nationals. This is business.”
New York Post writer Jon Heyman included an interesting anecdote in a recent report on the possibility of Soto getting traded after turning down the 15-year/$440M offer, which would give Soto an AAV (Average Annual Value) of $29.3M.
“The Nats did put out a big overall number but disregarded one other number Soto’s camp thought was important. Soto’s agent Scott Boras tried to use Max Scherzer’s $43.3 million salary as a comp. In response, the Nats made it clear in discussions they thought Scherzer’s three-year deal was irrelevant.
“Nats GM Mike Rizzo did take the opportunity, when Boras brought up the Scherzer salary, to say something along the lines of, ‘OK, we will give Soto the Scherzer deal.’ In other words, they would be willing to give Soto exactly $43.3 million for exactly three years.”
Rizzo’s take on Scherzer’s deal/AAV setting/not setting the bar for negotiations?
“We’re talking about a historic contract with Juan, and it’s hard to compare a 15-year deal, which, 13 of those years are new money, because we have him for two arbitration years, with a 3-year contract for a 37-year-old pitcher. It’s apples and oranges to me. We certainly would give Juan Soto a Max Scherzer-type of deal after his arbitration years are up, but that wouldn’t work either. It’s hard to compare a three-year deal for a 37-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher who I drafted, signed, and love, also, to a 13-new-year deal with 15 years total, it’s just not — that’s not the comp. The comps are the Bryce Harpers, and the Mookie Betts, and the Fernando Tatises of the world.
“Same type of ages, same type of years on these contracts, and this contract blows all those away.”