Nationals Would 'Love' to Sign Juan Soto to Long-Term Contract, Says Lerner

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2021

Washington Nationals' Juan Soto goes to the dugout after being thrown out at second during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fl. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The Washington Nationals would be smart to lock up young superstar Juan Soto with a long-term contract extension, though whether Soto is interested in such a scenario remains to be seen.

"We would love to lock up Juan to a long-term deal, but he and his agent have to be ready to do that. We've reached out to them and we'll see what happens," Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner told Scott Abraham of ABC7 on Tuesday. "We'll try our best. The fans know us well enough that we're gonna try our best to keep a special player like Juan."

Scott Abraham @ScottABC7

WATCH - "We would love to lock Juan up to a long term deal, but he and his agent have to be ready to do that" I just had a one on one interview with @Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner. We discussed Juan Soto's future here in Washington. More here - https://t.co/PiL3cT8IG8 https://t.co/xqa9WxCv8W

Soto, 22, has been brilliant in his three MLB seasons:

  • 2018: .292 with 22 homers, 70 RBI and 77 runs (116 games).
  • 2019: .282 with 34 homers, 110 RBI and 110 runs (150 games).
  • 2020: .351 with 13 homers, 37 RBI and 39 runs (47 games). 

He finished ninth in the National League MVP voting in 2019 and fifth in 2020. He won the batting title in 2020 as well. 

"He's a special kid," manager Dave Martinez told Keith Abernethy of WJLA.com. "He sees the game differently, he's able to slow the game down, which is amazing for a guy so young."

It wouldn't be shocking if Soto ended up the NL MVP in 2021. 

"He's such a perfectionist," general manager Mike Rizzo told Abernethy. "He has set the bar extremely high for himself. He makes it a point to take his game to another level."

Soto is under club control through the 2024 season. He could go one of two routes with his future financial situation: Bypass three more arbitration years to sign a lucrative long-term extension now, much like Fernando Tatis Jr. did with the San Diego Padres (14 years, $340 million).

Or he could wait to become a free agent in 2025, hoping his market value increases beyond what he could sign in an extension now. That was the route former Nationals like Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon each took, cashing out in free agency.

It's the dilemma of prioritizing financial security now versus the possibility of an even bigger payday down the line. It would be hard to blame Rendon for going either route, though Washington obviously will be rooting for the former.