Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Juan Soto rejects Nationals’ 15-year, $440 million extension, team plans to entertain trade offers, per report

Washington Nationals wunderkind Juan Soto recently turned down a contract extension offer that would have made him the highest-paid player in baseball history, according to Ken Rosenthal. Soto rejected a monster 15-year extension worth $440 million, and the Nationals reportedly now plan to entertain trade offers for last year’s NL MVP runner-up.

Here are the detail’s on Soto’s rejected extension, via The Athletic:

Soto, 23, rejected a 15-year, $440 million offer, sources said. The proposal, the Nationals’ third in recent months, did not include any deferred money, a departure from the team’s usual practice. The two biggest guarantees in club history, $245 million for right-hander Stephen Strasburg and $210 million for righty Max Scherzer, included significant deferrals, lowering the present-day values of the deals.

The Nationals’ offer exceeded in total dollars the 12-year, $426.5 million contract Mike Trout signed with the Angels in March 2019. Soto would have received an average salary of $29.33 million, the 20th-highest in baseball history, with the deal extending from his Ages 24 to 38 seasons, effectively making him a National for the rest of his career.

Soto reportedly rejected a 13-year, $350 million extension prior to the owners’ lockout, so the Nationals have upped their offer considerably. That said, the going rate for elite players is north of $30 million per year these days. Soto is a Scott Boras client and Boras tries to get his top clients to free agency as often as possible. Given his age and production, Soto is in line to smash contract records when he hits the open market after 2024, similar to Alex Rodriguez in 2001 (A-Rod was also a Boras client).

The Nationals won the World Series in 2019, though they’ve since cratered and become one of the worst teams in baseball, losing 97 games a year ago and playing at a 109-loss pace this year. The fact Soto still has another two years of team control remaining means Washington does not have to trade him right away, though it seems unlikely the Nationals will return to contention before he becomes a free agent. And the earlier they trade him, the more they can expect in return (and the less injury risk they assume).

“We are not trading Juan Soto. We’ve made it clear to his agent and to the player,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said last month. “…We have every intention of building this team around Juan Soto. 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.”

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There is precedent for a player as good and as young as Soto being traded: Miguel Cabrera. The Marlins traded a then-24-year-old Cabrera (and Dontrelle Willis) to the Tigers for six prospects, including Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, in Dec. 2007. Maybin and Miller were considered two of the 10-15 best prospects in baseball at the time. Incredibly, Cabrera is still playing and those two have since retired after long and productive careers. Cabrera was traded when he was two years away from free agency.

Just about every team in the league will have interest in Soto should the Nationals seriously entertain trade offers. Big-market contenders like the Dodgers and Yankees will be in the mix, and up-and-coming clubs like the Orioles and Rangers make sense as well. Bottom line, Soto is one of the very best players in the world and he would make any team better. He is a franchise player in every way and worth giving up an enormous prospect package to acquire.

Soto, 24 in October, owns a .247/.405/.490 batting line with 19 homers and way more walks (79) than strikeouts (54) this season. He is a career .292/.427/.540 hitter, putting him among the greatest ever at his age.

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