On May 23, Scott Boras, Soto’s agent, visited Nationals Park to see a handful of his clients. As the Los Angeles Dodgers took batting practice, Boras, Soto and two of Boras’s employees had a long chat in the Nationals’ dugout. A person with knowledge of the situation said the most recent offer came ahead of Boras’s stop at the stadium that week.
Soto is 23 and would reach free agency after the 2024 season. After he rejected the $350 million offer made before the offseason lockout, he told ESPN that he wanted to go year-to-year and eventually test the open market. The outfielder had shared similar sentiments with The Washington Post and other news outlets in the past. In the spring, with Soto in his second year of arbitration eligibility, he and the Nationals agreed to a $17.1 million salary for 2022, more than doubling his share from the previous year.
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In the months since, Soto has been the center of loose trade speculation, has not hit like his typically ultra-productive self and has been further pursued by Washington. He has a .224 batting average, a .375 on-base percentage and a .437 slugging percentage. He still leads the majors with 63 walks — and has a respectable 14 home runs — leading to a more-than-solid on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .812. But he has often failed to produce with runners on base and in scoring position, which has kept him from driving in runs despite consistent chances to do so.
No matter, he remains one of the sport’s top players and will keep pursuing a megadeal. At the same time, the Lerner family is exploring a sale of the Nationals, sparking many questions about the next phase of Soto’s career. Would the team be a more attractive commodity with Soto signed for the long term? Or would a new ownership group want to negotiate with him rather than inherit a massive financial commitment? And if General Manager Mike Rizzo doesn’t see a path to keeping Soto, does that increase the chance of Rizzo shopping the star in a blockbuster trade — if not at this early August deadline, then at some point in the future?
The Nationals are in last place in the National League East at 29-49. Following last year’s trade deadline, when they shipped out eight veterans for 12 prospects, Soto expressed frustration with the franchise’s direction. At the general managers meeting in November, Boras said: “Juan Soto wants to win. So the first thing that’s going to have to happen is that he knows that he’s working with an ownership that’s going to annually try to compete and win.”
This season, the Nationals have lost a lot more than they have won. They had no all-star finalists when Major League Baseball announced the list thursday They are expected to sell at the deadline again, potentially parting with designated hitter Nelson Cruz and first baseman Josh Bell, among others. But with an ownership change possible, the calculus for Soto, Boras and the team is less clear than it was, say, at the beginning of spring training.
Each side has a lot of moving parts to consider. Washington hosts the Miami Marlins for a four-game series this weekend.