It happened. A day many of us hoped we would never have to see. Juan Soto is not on the Nationals anymore. And there’s just so much to take in, so much to reflect on with that simple sentence.
Everyone knows what a special talent this guy is. A generational player in every sense of the word. The type of player that no team should ever think about letting go. The type of player that’s not expendable. And it’s an added bonus that he comes with an infectious personality, plays the game with true happiness, and is that one superstar in the game you just can’t hate. The Giannis Antetokounmpo of the MLB. So, why did the Nats do it?
Well, in short, because they had to do it. The situation they’re in. They did this to themselves. They got to a point where trading their generational superstar was the right thing to do. But again, you might ask, why did they have to it?
Abysmal farm system. Awful contracts on the books. Lack of proper drafting. Lack of player development. These were all going to catch up with this team eventually, and thank God they won that ring in essentially the last year of their contention window. Not to mention the impending sale of the team, where owners who seemingly checked out after that World Series are on their way out the door this winter. And when this all happens, you have to hit the reset button. And there’s no better way to do it than by trading the most valuable asset in baseball.
Let’s get the talk about the Soto extension negotiations out of the way. The 15-year, $440m offer was not a good offer, please do not get it twisted. 29m AAV is not even close to Juan Soto’s market value. Don’t let the big number and the record-breaking contract fool you into thinking Soto’s greediness led to the decline of that contract. He’s very smart and knows his worth, and his worth is, well, more than what was offered. Scott Boras also knows his worth.
Soto and Boras have always been dead set on free agency. An extension has just always seemed slim, and we knew it. Unless the Nationals offered something let absolutely outlandish like 600m, which they were never going to do, they were always heading to free agency and there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping them. The Nationals absolutely could not have a repeat of the Bryce Harper situation, or the franchise would have never been the same again. Instead, the Nats may have possibly just sliced the duration of their rebuild in half.
It is a really hard move to make. It’s a really risky move to make. As a fan, it hurts a lot on the emotional side of it. Soto is my favorite player and will continue to be. But that’s my own fault in getting attached and continuing to get attached to these stars that are just a ticking time bomb en route to their departure in Washington.
But the anger more resides in the fact that not only did the return from San Diego for Soto alone seem a bit underwhelming, but it was the fact that they seemingly threw in their second biggest trade chip in Josh Bell for nothing. Sure, the Nationals got some fantastic young pieces back, including SS CJ Abrams, SP Mackenzie Gore, and top prospects Robert Hassell III, James Wood, and Jarlin Susana. But they could’ve gotten all them just for Soto, and could’ve had more young pieces in return from another team had they dealt Bell separately elsewhere. But that’s a separate conversation.
It truly is crazy to fathom that Juan Soto was a National for shorter than Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner. He was supposed to be THE one, the one that HAD to be here forever, and yet he was here for less time than all of them.
Even though Juan Soto won’t be a National for life, his legacy in DC will be and should forever be cemented, and he should be remembered as one of the greatest players to even wear the team’s uniform. And at the end of his surefire Hall of Fame career, he likely will be known as the best player to ever wear a Washington uniform. In just those 4.5 seasons in DC, the 23-year-old secured a World Series title, a Batting Title, a runner-up NL MVP finish, 2 All-Star selections, a Home Run Derby title, multiple Silver Sluggers, and put up plenty of historical numbers. I will truly miss watching Juan Soto put on the curly W every night, and I will forever be thankful for all the autographs, pictures and other memorabilia I have received from him. I wish him nothing but success in San Diego and will turn on the TV late at night to watch him do his thing out west. Watching him in a lineup together with Tatis and Machado will truly be something to behold. He didn’t deserve the situation he was in here, and he now gets to do what he loves the most: compete his ass off for another World Series title. I’m so incredibly happy for him.