Washington Nationals: No reason for Juan Soto to take their offer

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 18: National League All-Star Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals reacts while competing during the 2022 T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium on July 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 18: National League All-Star Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals reacts while competing during the 2022 T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium on July 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Ponder, if you will, if your boss comes up to you at work and offers you half a billion dollars. Maybe you’re in a line of work where that wouldn’t be a big deal, but I doubt it. Then imagine yourself thinking it over and saying thanks, but no.

That’s pretty much what happened with Juan Soto and the Washington Nationals. We don’t know all the details, but here’s what we do know:

  • The Nationals have been transformed from a World Series winner to the worst team in baseball in just three years. That’s with Soto, possibly the best hitter in baseball, on the roster.
  • They have a lousy farm system (ranked 23rd, according to MLB.com), have been shedding payroll vigorously, and have an unsteady ownership situation.  If Soto had taken this deal, he might spend the first half of it in a rebuild.
  • They are on the hook through 2026, at $35 million per, to Stephen Strasburg, who has pitched a total of 31 innings and recorded one victory in the past three seasons. Strasburg turns 34 next week and seems likely to be a sunk cost at this point.
  • The Nats also owe Patrick Corbin more than $60 million between now and the end of 2024; the only “good” news being that Corbin seems unlikely to collect the $500,000 incentive in his contract for winning the Cy Young, as he is currently allowing opposing hitters an OPS of .868. Maybe Soto wants to get traded so he can get some at bats against the Nats’ pitching, currently 29th in MLB.

Now, on the one hand, there is always risk involved in saying no to huge amounts of money, like Juan Soto did with the Washington Nationals.

Soto could get injured or stop hitting or get embroiled in a huge scandal of some sort. But, short of something that takes Soto off the field for multiple years, this money will still be available whenever he decides to sign.

As an example, Francisco Lindor had the worst season of his career with Cleveland in 2020, with a .750 OPS. While that might have hurt the return Cleveland got when they traded Lindor the next offseason, it did not deter the Mets from signing Lindor to a 10-year, $341 million deal before he had even swung a bat for them. While Lindor is a shortstop, he has never posted an OPS higher than .871, which Soto has never finished a season with an OPS below his current .901.

So, whether Soto stays in Washington until he is a free agent after the 2024 season, or he gets traded to a team and signs a big deal like Lindor did, he will get paid, and the $29.3 million annual value that he just turned down will probably be where negotiations start. So, given all that, why would Soto take this deal?

The only reason to do so is if he truly wants to play with Washington, and that’s a tough commitment to make when the team is awful and there’s uncertainty about the next owner. So, a trade seems inevitable, probably before the August 2 trade deadline.

Next. Could this trade package be what brings Juan Soto to the Dodgers?. dark

After that, the next bit of drama will be whether Soto signs a long-term deal with the team that trades for him. Given that his agent is Scott Boras, and that he will still be able to test free agency after the 2024 season, it will probably take a higher yearly salary than Mike Trout’s $35.5 million to start the conversation.