Soto avoids arbitration with $17.1M contract (source)

March 22nd, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals agreed to terms with six of seven arbitration-eligible players on Tuesday, including a $17.1 million deal with Juan Soto for the 2022 season, a source told's Mark Feinsand. The team will continue negotiations with center fielder Victor Robles, while it avoided salary arbitration with Soto, first baseman Josh Bell and right-handers Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Tanner Rainey. The club has not confirmed the agreements.

Terms agreed

• Soto's contract came a little short of the record for a player in his second year of arbitration as a Super Two, which is held by Nolan Arenado after he earned $17.75 million in 2018. Soto is set to become a free agent in 2025, but a contract extension is a hot topic surrounding the ‘21 National League MVP runner-up who hit .313 with a league-leading .465 on-base percentage last year. According to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas, this offseason Washington had offered Soto, 23, a 13-year deal worth $350 million. This month, general manager Mike Rizzo referred to Soto as “our No. 1 priority” and said, “We're going to attack a deal with Juan Soto. I want him here for the long term, so we're going to continue to talk and try and make him a Nat for a long time.”

• Bell, 29, agreed to a one-year contract for $10 million, according to a source. He is coming off a bounceback 2021 season as the Nationals’ starting first baseman in which he boosted his batting average from .226 to .261 and his OPS from .669 to .823.

• Ross agreed to a 2022 salary worth $2.4 million, a source told Ross, a member of the Nationals’ starting rotation (5-9, 4.17 ERA in 2021), suffered a setback in his return from a season-ending partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and required a minor scope procedure to remove a bone spur on March 7. Ross, 28, was placed on the 60-day injured list on March 16.

• Fedde will earn $2.15 million this year, per Robert Murray of FanSided. Fedde, 29, is likely to earn a spot in the Opening Day starting rotation after stepping into the role from the bullpen amid injury-related vacancies the past two seasons. He went 7-9 with a 5.47 ERA in 29 games (27 starts) last year.

• Rainey was projected by Cot’s to earn $775,000 this season. After a year hampered by injuries and up-and-down performances on the mound (1-3, 7.39 ERA, three saves, 38 relief appearances), the 29-year-old Rainey is looking to bounce back as a candidate for the 2022 closer role.

• Voth’s 2022 contract is worth $875,000, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported. Voth, 26, was 4-1 with a 5.34 ERA in 49 appearances, including one start, in ‘21.

Continuing negotiations

• Robles’ projected 2022 salary, per Cot’s, was $1.5 million. The 24-year-old is looking to reclaim the starting center fielder role in his sixth Major League season after finishing last season in Triple-A. Robles batted .203/.310/.295 across 107 big league games in ‘21.

In the case of Robles, following an exchange of salary figures, a hearing will be scheduled. If continued negotiations do not yield an agreement before that date, a panel of arbitrators will hear the case and choose the salary figure of the player or the team.