Nats GM: 'We are not trading Juan Soto'
NEW YORK -- Two months before the Trade Deadline on Aug. 2, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo put one hot topic of buzz to rest.
“We are not trading Juan Soto,” Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan’s The Sports Junkies program. “We made it clear to his agent and to the player.”
Soto does not become a free agent until after the 2024 season, but the 23-year-old’s future has been a heavily discussed question mark since he quickly skyrocketed into one of the most dominant players in baseball.
Rizzo said the team had conversations with Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, during a recent visit to Washington, D.C. Although there has not been a contract extension -- ESPN’s Enrique Rojas reported this offseason Washington had offered a 13-year deal worth $350 million -- that does not alter the Nationals’ stance on their goals for a long-term plan with the 2021 National League MVP runner up.
“It doesn’t frustrate me,” Rizzo said of trade talks on Wednesday in the visitor’s dugout at Citi Field. “I get it. You guys got a blank piece of paper every day to fill up, and this is a very clickable, very writable story. And I can only say it so many times and in so many words what our decision on that topic is.”
Soto is two years removed from winning the NL batting title in 2020, and he is coming off a ‘21 season in which he hit .313, belted 29 home runs and led all players in on-base percentage (.465) and walks (145). Through the first 51 games of his fifth Major League season, Soto is slashing .232/.379/.442 with nine homers and a league-high 42 walks. Manager Dave Martinez has moved him from the No. 2 spot in the lineup back to No. 3, where he has hit most of his career, as he works through timing and the adjustments pitchers are making against him.
“He’s a great hitter, even though the average isn’t where he wants it to be right now,” Rizzo said. “They pitch him like Babe Ruth. Every team does. He’s circled on everybody’s lineup card: ‘This is the guy that’s not going to beat us.’ He sees the least amount of fastballs in baseball, he sees the most offspeed pitches in baseball and he’s got the ingredients that all the great hitters have. He’s got great bat speed, great balance at the plate, he’s often ahead in the count because he’s got a great knowledge of the strike zone -- that hasn’t changed.
“I think that when he’s hitting where he’s hitting today on June 1, he’s got a lot of hits coming because he’s going to be where he’s going to be because he’s Juan Soto.”
After emerging as a young star on a World Series championship winning team in 2019, Soto now is an established, young centerpiece on a team going through an organizational reboot following a roster overhaul at last season’s Trade Deadline. The landscape of the team has changed, but Rizzo has not seen that impact Soto’s approach to the game.
“We have a lot of things to worry about with the Nationals. Juan Soto is not one of them,” Rizzo said. “He’s a great player, he’s a great person, he’s a great leader. The only difference I see is he’s taken a more aggressive leadership role in the reboot that we have now. At the end of the day, he’s Juan Soto, he’s going to be Juan Soto and I wish I had a lot more like him.”