Nationals' Juan Soto Says He's Open to Contract Talks, Discusses Testing Free Agency

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 2, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals bats against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on June 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
G Fiume/Getty Images

Washington Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto hasn't made any firm decisions about his future.

Speaking to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post, Soto admitted to being open to a contract extension with the Nats, as well as testing free agency in the future, saying:

"Everybody wants to go to free agency and see how the market is going to be for them. But for me, I really don't know if I want to go there or if I want to stay here. I feel really good here. We'll see what's going to happen. For me, right now, the plan that we always have is go year by year. But you don't know what the future has for you."

While the Nationals have had contract talks with Soto's agent, Scott Boras, they are under no immediate obligation to sign Soto to a new deal since he is under team control through 2024, meaning he is arbitration eligible the next two seasons.

The 23-year-old Soto is in the midst of his fifth season with the Nationals, and while he has struggled in 2022, his overall body of work will command a monster deal.

Per Dougherty, Soto has already turned down an offer in excess of $350 million over 13 years, which would have made him one of the highest-paid players in Major League Baseball.

Soto noted that the Nationals and Boras have been "going back and forth" in negotiations, and that while he himself hasn't had much involvement in the talks, he does have final say.

The talented slugger admitted that while the contract talks have been "little bit on [my] mind," he said it hasn't impacted his play.

Through 77 games entering Saturday, Soto had posted a career-low slash line of .225/.377/.439 with 14 home runs, 32 RBI, 45 runs scored and five stolen bases.

It represents a huge drop-off for Soto, who has hit .290 with a .424 on-base percentage for his career, and hit .313 with 29 homers and 95 RBI last season as the runner-up in the National League MVP voting.

In spite of how poorly the one-time All-Star has played, it is understandable why the Nationals would like to lock him up with a long-term deal.

He still hasn't even hit his prime and already has two Silver Slugger awards, plus he played a huge role in leading Washington to a World Series championship in 2019.

Soto isn't fully to blame for his drop in production this season, as the Nationals organization has failed to give him much protection in the lineup.

First baseman Josh Bell is the only player having a high-end offensive season with a .321 batting average, 11 home runs and 46 RBI. No other Nationals player has double-digit homers, which allows opposing pitchers to choose who they want to pitch to.

As a result, they often play it safe with Soto, resulting in his having an NL-leading 64 walks.

The lack of talent around him may be something Soto is considering before signing a new deal, but if the Nationals give him a massive offer to his liking, it would be difficult to turn down the opportunity to be one of the best-compensated players in baseball.