One of baseball’s brightest young stars just landed one of the biggest contracts in the game’s history. Could Juan Soto be next in line?
A day after the Padres agreed to a 14-year, $340 million deal with 22-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., per sources, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo spoke about the potential future of their own 22-year-old superstar -- and how Rizzo would like it to be in Washington.
“I don’t think [the Tatis deal] gives us any more clarity of what it’ll take for Juan Soto,” Rizzo said. “I think every deal is separate and independent. It’s all about players’ wants and needs and can both sides get together to fulfill those.
“We signed, developed and brought Juan to the big leagues in very, very short order and at a very young age. We see him as hopefully a National for a long, long time. But we’re still in the early stages of discussions. We had some discussions with him on [a] long-term deal last Spring Training, and they didn’t go very far. Since the COVID season of 2020, we really haven’t re-engaged on that.
“But our plans are to make an effort, like we’ve made efforts in the past to our really great young players, to keep him in a National uniform for a long, long time.”
Soto, who debuted with the Nationals in May 2018, will have a salary of $8.5 million this season after agreeing to a deal to avoid arbitration in his first year of eligibility. He has four seasons remaining before he is scheduled to reach free agency.
In his first three seasons, Soto has established himself as one of the best players in the Majors. He owns a career OPS of .972 after leading MLB in OBP (.490), slugging (.695), OPS (1.185) and OPS+ (212) during the shortened 2020 campaign. He then became the youngest player to win the National League batting title (.351), captured an NL Silver Slugger Award and finished fifth in the NL MVP voting.
But Soto clearly isn’t satisfied. Nationals manager Dave Martinez said on Thursday that Soto worked this offseason to improve his agility in an effort to steal more bases in 2021. So far in his career, Soto is 23-for-28 as a basestealer.
“He’s like a sponge. He wants to learn,” Martinez said. “He’s gotten so much quicker this offseason. He worked a lot on agility. He has this thing about wanting to steal more bases and winning a Gold Glove. He’s worked on all those things this winter. For us, there’s that thing where you just let him go out there and play the games. He’s a special kid.”