As Bryce Harper prepares for the fourth year of his 13-year/$330 million contract, his former teammate Juan Soto reportedly rejected a similar contract offer from the Washington Nationals.
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that the Nationals offered Soto a 13-year/$350 million deal before the owners locked the players out on Dec. 1.
Soto, who is represented by Scott Boras, acknowledged that the offer was made and subsequently declined by his camp. The 23-year-old’s camp — probably correctly — believes that he stands to make even more money signing a long-term deal after playing out his arbitration years. A two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Soto says he’s still interested in remaining with the Nationals in the long run.
“Anyway, in my mind I still have Washington as a place I’d like to spend the rest of my career. We’ll see,” Soto said. (This is a translation of a quote that was said in Spanish.)
Interestingly, Rojas’s story says that the offer “did not include deferred money.” Bob Nightengale of USA Today also heard the same thing.
That’s quite the departure from the 10-year/$300 million offer that the Nationals extended to Harper before he became a free agent after the 2018 season. That deal, per Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post, “included $100 million in deferrals and paid Harper until he was 60.”
Even Max Scherzer’s recently concluded seven-year/$215 million deal included heavy deferrals. Even though Scherzer signed a three-year/$130 million deal with the New York Mets in November, he’ll still earn $15 million a year in deferral money from the Nationals between 2022 and 2027, with the Los Angeles Dodgers set to pay him $15 million in 2028.
For the offer to Soto to contain zero deferred money gives you an idea of how great of a player they think he is, even in comparison to Harper, who is now one of 32 players in MLB history to win multiple MVP Awards.
In the grand scheme of things, Soto probably will do even better than the 13-year/$350 million deal. He figures to clean up in the arbitration system over the next three seasons, before becoming a free agent after the 2024 season. Like Harper and Manny Machado after the 2018 season, Soto will enter free agency ahead of his age-26 season with a resume that puts him on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
It will be interesting to see if the Nationals are willing to climb even higher with their offer in a few years, assuming Soto continues to perform like one of the most complete offensive players that the sport has seen in the last 30 years.
And while the Nationals signed Soto’s younger brother as an international free agent and did win a World Series in 2019, it probably wouldn’t hurt their chances of retaining him if they put together a better team around Soto in the next few years. After trading the aforementioned Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July, the Nationals went just 65-97 in 2021.
The Phillies certainly wouldn’t mind if Soto departed D.C. after the 2024 season. In 60 career games against the Phillies, Soto has slashed .310/.444/.610 with 17 home runs, 49 RBIs, 53 walks and a 1.054 OPS.
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