Earlier this offseason, Nationals outfielder Juan Soto confirmed to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas that he turned down a 13-year, $350 million contract extension from the club prior to the lockout. Even after their offer was rejected, however, the Nationals are still laser-focused on retaining Soto long-term, according to GM Mike Rizzo:
The other headline-grabbing item from Mike Rizzo: He's serious about continuing contract talks with Juan Soto. "He's our No. 1 priority."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 13, 2022
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: "This is Juan Soto’s team. He’s the face of the team. He’s the face of the franchise."— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) March 13, 2022
The Nationals’ offer would have been the third-largest in major league history, but with Soto widely considered to be the best young player in the sport today — and perhaps the best player overall — he has a legitimate chance to become baseball’s first $400 million or perhaps even $500 million player. Thus, it’s understandable why the 23-year-old is hanging onto every bit of his leverage.
While a sufficiently lucrative offer would surely make Soto re-evaluate his priorities, he told Rojas that he plans to test the free-agent market following the 2024 season and that his agent, Scott Boras, “has control over the situation.” Boras traditionally has pushed his clients to wait for free agency rather than signing extensions before hitting the open market.
After the Nationals let Bryce Harper walk following his age-25 season, it should be interesting to see how hard they try to prevent Soto from doing the same.
Soto, who reached the majors at the age of 19 and helped the Nationals win the World Series during his second year in the big leagues, is a .301/.432/.550 career hitter. After a relatively tough first half last season, he caught fire after the All-Star break and hit .348/.525/.639 after the All-Star break, finishing the season with a .313/.465/.534 slash line and ranking second in NL MVP voting.