This past weekend a shockwave was sent throughout major league baseball. According to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, Juan Sota, the superstar of the Washington Nationals, turned down almost a half-billion-dollar deal on Saturday. The offer was said to be a 15-year extension worth $440 million.
Rumors abound that the Nationals will entertain trade offers as a result of Soto’s rejection of the offer. Soto is on the very short list of the game’s best players and he cannot become a free agent until after 2024. Players like him rarely become available. Rosenthal also said the offer would have made Soto the highest-paid player in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB).
Earlier this year Nationals GM Mike Rizzo emphatically said the club will not trade Soto, and they intend to build around him moving forward. Rizzo said in a radio interview at the time, “We are not trading Juan Soto. We’ve made it clear to his agent and to the player, We have every intention of building this team around Juan Soto. We’ve spoken to his agent many, many times and recently sat with him when he was in Washington D.C., and 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.
Obviously, things have changed. At minimum, Rizzo and his staff should be willing to listen to offers for Soto, especially since signing him long-term has proven to be difficult. It never hurts to listen and seems Rizzo would need to consider all possibilities, since that is part of his job.
Soto will be representing Washington on Tuesday evening as a participant in this year’s MLB All-Star game. On Monday afternoon Soto spoke with reporters for the first time since word got out the Nationals will entertain trade offers. He does not seem thrilled his name is now popping up in trade rumors a month after Rizzo said the team plans to keep him.
In the video below Soto said on Monday, “A couple of weeks ago they were saying they will never trade me. And now all these things come out. It feels really uncomfortable. You don’t know what to trust. At the end of the day, it’s all out of my hands what decision they make.”
Soto, who is only 23, is hitting .240/.405/.497 with 79 walks and 54 strikeouts in what can plausibly be considered adown season for him. There is a precedent for a player this good and so young being traded, in Miquel Cabrera. The Marlins traded a 24-year-old Cabrera to the Tigers when he was two years away from free agency in December 2007.
Soto was a part of the franchise’s first championship in its history in 2019. He’s done all there is to do as a player for them.
Given how good and how young he is, and how long he’ll remain under team control, the other 29 teams all figure to check in on Soto. The question is which team can pony up the prospects and will the Nationals seek to unload some bad money in the trade? The trade deadline is two weeks away.
The Nationals are currently 30-62 and have the worst record in the MLB, according to ESPN. It will be interesting to see if they think about trading him. If you can’t sign him for that much money it is highly doubtful that Washington will ever convince him to play for them long-term.