When it came out that Juan Soto declined a 13-year, $350m extension offer from the Nats, it led to a lot of Nats fans’ hearts sinking. Sure, there are some positives to take away from the offer, such as there being no deferrals when typically, the Lerners will only hand out megadeals with that baggage attached. Despite how huge this offer looks on the surface and how crazy Soto might look for turning it down, he is one of the few players in baseball that is worth a significant amount more. Juan himself essentially confirmed that he was going to take his contractual negotiations year by year and will hit free agency. That’s not to say there is no chance the Nats will re-sign Soto whether it be through an extension or in free agency, but at this point it looks all but certain he will be hitting the market unless the Nats offer him a record-breaking deal worth more in total value than the 12-year, $426.5m extension Mike Trout signed with the Angels.
Other than the actual value of the contract, Juan Soto made it known through his agent, Scott Boras, that he wants to be a part of a club that annually competes for a World Series. The Nationals, as they are constructed right now, are one of the worst teams in the entire sport and are nowhere near considered contenders. What’s the quickest and most efficient way to improve your team? Signing free agents. And a guy like Carlos Correa makes way too much sense.
I already know what you might be thinking. “That CHEATER???! Get him as far away from D.C. as possible!! I just fell to my knees in the Harris Teeter parking lot just thinking about that wretched human being on my team!!” Let’s go ahead and put that argument to rest real quick. In 148 games in 2021, Correa slashed .279/.366/.485 with an .850 OPS, 131 OPS+, 134 wRC+, and a .373 xwOBA, with 26 HR and 34 doubles. He won the platinum glove in the AL with his more than outstanding defense at shortstop. He had a 7.2 bWAR, second highest in the AL behind AL MVP finalist Marcus Semien. Not only is Correa a legitimately good player without the cheating, but he’s also one of the best all-around players in baseball. The only knock is that he has had some trouble staying healthy in his career, but when he is on the field the talent is undeniable.
Here’s exactly why the Nationals should be deep in the Correa bidding. First, he recently just changed agents to Boras, who we know the Lerners have a strong relationship with, and he will almost certainly try to sell them on Correa. We also know the Nats have an obvious need at shortstop. Luis Garcia is a second baseman and putting him at shortstop feels like a disaster waiting to happen, and lord knows no one wants to see Alcides Escobar out there getting starts. You want to prove to Juan Soto you are going to build an annual winner in D.C.? It’s a no brainer to add Correa to your long-term future. Going only his age 27 season, Correa could be a monstrous duo along with Soto for years to come.
Even if they were to sign Correa, let’s say Soto does end up departing in free agency because a team just put in an absolutely insane bid in. While it would still suck to see him go, you have the insurance of another superstar still locked up with you. Teams need star power to succeed in October and that’s the bottom line. Sure, you can point to the Rays model and how many games it has won them during the regular season as well as their 2020 playoff run, but how many rings do they have out of all that? The entire point in paying a superstar free agent big money is so they’ll not only help you reach the playoffs, but come through in the playoffs where you need them the most.
You might be wondering how the financials would work out for a $300m+ Correa contract and a $400m+ Soto contract, and here’s my answer: stop being cheap. The Lerners are the 4th richest owners in baseball and can absolutely afford to carry both Correa and Soto on their payroll. Look at the small market San Diego Padres: they handed out two $300m+ deals to Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, and now they have star power locked up for a long time that will eventually help them succeed in the postseason. The CBT is going to be raised, and even if you blow past it, you are worth billions of dollars. Pay the players what they’re worth, have an actual desire to win, and stop being so freaking cheap.
The Nats absolutely have to be smart about approaching the Soto negotiations as well as the timetable for their rebuild. While Correa makes the most sense right now, the Nats 100% need to lock up a major free agent sometime within the next 2 offseasons. If Juan Soto does end up departing, you cannot walk away with nothing. If he decides to stay, you have two pieces of your core for the long-term and will be back to competing sooner than originally thought. Don’t get me wrong, the 1-year deals that can be flipped at the deadline still make a ton of sense given where the club is currently at. But the Nats need their superstar, whether it includes Soto or not.