At this point, we are all well aware that the Nats made a 13-year, $350 million extension offer to Juan Soto that would have kicked in this upcoming season. The offer itself is nothing to scoff at. It’s the highest total value offer the team has ever made a player and it would have given Soto the third highest contract in terms of total value in MLB. With that being said, $350 million was never really even going to get Soto to listen.
So where do things stand? We know Soto rejected the deal and said that he’s content going year to year until he hits free agency. But is this offer a starting point? How much higher are the Nats willing to go, and is Soto willing to discuss an extension at this point? Let’s take a look:
Positives of the Nats Offer:
- No Deferrals: The Nats are very well known for their inclusion of deferrals in contracts. They even deferred $6.5 million of Brad Hand’s $10.5 million contract last offseason. Truthfully, it’s comical. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin’s contracts all have (or had in Scherzer’s case) deferrals in them. When the Nats made an extension offer to Bryce Harper, it included significant deferrals. It’s the Lerner’s way of doing business, so to not see deferrals at all in this offer is refreshing.
- Record Offer for the Franchise (in terms of total dollars offered): Look, it’s not where the Nats need to be in extension talks, but it could’ve started a lot worse. This is a first offer. I don’t think it’s a particularly great first offer, but it’s not terrible by any means. The Nats previously offered Bryce Harper a reported $300 million deal back in 2019. This offer exceeds that by $50 million and would slot Soto in as the holder of the third highest value contract in MLB. I think (and hope) the Nats know they’re going to have to go significantly higher than $350 million to get a deal done. At just 23 years old though, Soto knows he can do better both now and if he hits the open market in a couple of years.
- Length: The bottom line here is teams aren’t just throwing 13-year deals out there anymore. Teams are smarter and are way more willing to commit to a lower-term, higher AAV contract than they are a longer-term deal. Had Soto accepted this offer, it would’ve taken him to his age 36 season. My guess is that ideally, Boras would like to see Soto’s next deal lock him up until he’s 40, but again, that’s just a guess. Either way, this is a risk for the Nats. Is it possible that Soto ages like Nelson Cruz and continues to hit into his late 30’s and early 40’s? Absolutely. Is it just as likely that his body starts to break down a bit in his late 30’s and the last 5 years of his deal turn out like Albert Pujols’s deal with the Angels or Miguel Cabrera’s deal with the Tigers? Yup. Is it a risk I would still take? Undoubtedly.
Negatives of Nats Offer
- AAV: Quite frankly, the AAV isn’t even close. An AAV of $26.92 million would have placed Soto at #15 in MLB. That position would likely drop after Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman and maybe even Kris Bryant sign their deals after the lockout ends. I get that this is a starting offer, but the AAV is going to be important to Soto and Boras. When you’re talking about quite possibly the top hitter in the game, the AAV is going to have to be top 5 in the sport. That means the Nats next offer needs to be somewhere in the $33-34 million per year range to get Soto to think about it.
- Total Value: The biggest issue here is that the two sides are at least $100 million apart from one another, and it might be even more than that considering we don’t know what number Soto and Boras would actually accept. That’s a HUGE gap. It’s a big enough gap where we aren’t even sure if Soto and Boras decided to counter. I know it seems silly to scoff at a $350 million offer, but in terms of buying out 10 free agent years and buying out 3 remaining arbitration years, $350 million really doesn’t even come close. In my Juan Soto extension article which was posted in December, I valued Soto’s 3 remaining arbitration years at a little over $71 million, which I stand by. If you use that number as the number for his 3 arbitration years, then you’re looking at buying out 10 free agent seasons for $279 million. At that number, you’re not even in the ballpark of what Soto would accept.
At the end of the day, I do think Soto and Boras probably looked at the offer and were happy with a couple aspects of the proposal. The 13 years are a good starting point and they were likely happy with the fact that there were no deferrals. With that being said, the dollar value of the offer is severely lacking. In my previous article, I proposed a 14-year, $511 million offer. I understand that many of you might think that’s high, but I think that offer gets Soto to sign as soon as the lockout ends. Some back and forth negotiating might get the dollar amount slightly under $500 million (maybe around $475 million), but I think that’s the floor that Soto will be willing to accept in order to forego free agency. This is a generational bat that we’re talking about here. He’s a guy that you build your franchise around. He’s not a guy that you let go over $100-150 million, especially when we’re talking about an ownership group in the Lerners who’s net worth is over $5 billion.