The Nationals made an extension offer to Juan Soto this spring

The Nationals made an extension offer to Juan Soto sometime this spring, writes Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. The precise timing of the offer is unclear, but Dougherty adds that the offer is believed to have been made before Soto’s agent Scott Boras visited Nationals Park in late May. Soto rejected the offer, but Dougherty calls talks between the two sides “active.”

It’s at least the second offer the Nationals have made to the franchise in the past 12 months. In February, Soto told ESPN’s Enrique Rojas that he had rejected a long-term overture made before the lockdown. Rojas said the pre-lockdown offer would have been 13 years and $350 million guaranteed. Dougherty reports the Nationals topped $350 million in their spring proposal, but specific terms are unknown. The two Doughertys (Twitter link) and Britt Ghiroli of Athletic (on Twitter) hear that rumors of a 13-year, $425 million deal are inaccurate.

Either way, the relatively recent proposal is the latest indication that the Nationals hope they can keep Soto for the long haul. It’s at least somewhat remarkable that the talks remain open even after Soto again declined. In his February interview with Rojas, the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner expressed a desire to proceed year by year through the arbitration process in anticipation of reaching free agency at the end of the 2024 season. It was not due to any animosity expressed towards the organization of the national championships, but rather a desire to sell themselves to the 30 teams with a good chance of obtaining a record salary.

Without specific terms of the proposal, it’s impossible to pinpoint precisely where the latest offer stacked up among the biggest in major league history. At worst, it would have marked the third-biggest guarantee of all time. Only two players have surpassed the $350 million mark. Mookie Bets received 12 years and $365 million from the Dodgers in his July 2020 extension, while Mike Trout won ten years and $360 million in new money in its March 2019 extension.

As was the case when Soto turned down $350 million over the winter, many fans are sure to bristle at the thought of rejecting a proposal for an even higher amount. This is especially true in the context of what has been a relative “down year”, at least compared to his pre-2022 performance. Soto comes into play on Thursday with a slant line of .224/.375/.437 . Those were the lowest ratings of his career in any area, as he had hit at least .282 with on-base percentage above .400 and hitting percentage north of .500 every season from 2018-2021.

Still, the first three months of this season are unlikely to have a depressing effect on Soto’s long-term value. On the one hand, his relatively disappointing numbers would still be a good performance for the majority of players. Soto’s base and slugging marks are significantly higher than the league’s respective .312 and .394 numbers. His .224 batting average certainly isn’t ideal, but that’s largely down to a .225 in-play average, which is the fifth-lowest number for skilled hitters. Soto’s average speed out and hard contact rate have decreased somewhat, so lesser batted ball results cannot be counted. uniquely to misfortune. Still, his contact metrics quality is still solid, and given that he entered the season owner of a career .330 BABIP, Soto looks likely to benefit from better ball-in-play results at the coming.

Owning a .290/.424/.534 career line with more walks than strikeouts, Soto is still on track for a blistering payday. Amazingly, he won’t turn 24 until October and would reach free agency before his 26 season. Once there, he still looks like a good bet to surpass the all-time high average annual value of $36 million for position players over more than a decade, assuming he stays healthy. A deal of over $400 million seems likely, and it’s not out of the question that Soto and his representatives could aim for the half-billion-dollar mark. (Reaching $500 million would likely require a 13-year duration at an AAV just below $38.5 million).

There is, of course, some risk for Soto to continue turning down offers that would make him one of the highest-paid players in league history. Every player has a risk of reduced performance or serious injury. Soto, however, will have already banked over $25 million in refereeing winnings by the end of this season. It will go through the arbitration process twice more and is expected to earn another $50 million over the next two years before it hits the open market.

Talks with Soto are taking place against a backdrop of possible change for the Nationals. The Lerner family has been investigating sales possibilities for a few months. A potential ownership shuffle has led to some uncertainty for president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez, who are each in the final year guaranteed on their contracts and have 2,023 options to be decided next month.

The roster has undergone a major overhaul since last summer’s trade deadline. Washington launched a rebuild and saw the departures of key contributors to their 2019 World Series team as Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner. The Nats come into play tonight 20 games below .500, and they are certain to move imminent free agents Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz over the next four and a half weeks. They didn’t give much, if any, consideration to dealing Soto in a franchise-altering blockbuster. Rizzo flatly dismissed speculation of a trade with Soto four weeks ago, saying the Nationals “have every intention of building this team around him.”

Z101’s Héctor Gómez was first to report fairly recent talks between Soto and the Nationals this afternoon.

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