All eyes will be on it Juan Soto in the next 13 days. With the annual amateur draft and All-Star game now in the rearview mirror, the numbers of a hectic and compressed summer trading market are getting their act together. Soto’s recent refusal of a $440m 15-year contract extension has already garnered countless headlines, and its reported later availability in the commercial market will create unprecedented intrigue.
Agent Scott Boras addressed Soto’s decision to turn down the largest aggregate guarantee in MLB history this week, first in an interview with The New York Times’ James Wagner and then with The New York Post’s Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman on their podcast, The Show”. There were many factors in the decision, but Boras suggested that the average annual value, potential sale of the franchise, and uncertainty about the team’s direction all weighed heavily.
[Related: Looking for a Match in a Juan Soto Trade]
“I don’t think anyone would want to work for someone they don’t know,” Boras told Wagner. “So it’s kind of a ghost contract. We don’t know who will pay for this. Consequently, when you’re a player like Juan you’re a successful player and you want to make sure there’s a lot more at stake than dollars and cents and who you work for and where you’re going to be for the majority.”
In his appearance with Sherman and Heyman, Boras spoke about the respect Soto has for the Lerner family and the commitment they have shown over the years to win, but the direction of a new ownership group is unknown at this time be. While a quick return to competition is the goal, the Nationals’ dismal farming system, the lack of big-league talent in the current roster, and the strong division they play in all combine to make an immediate rebound unlikely. Soto is certainly aware of this.
“Juan Soto has a ring on his finger and he’s had people he knows and has trusted with the franchise since its inception, but now this group of people has said, ‘We’re going to go ahead and reassign this team to another group'” , Boras said in reference to the likely sale of the franchise by the Lerner family. “…As a player you can talk about being offered things, but it doesn’t carry the intentions [of ownership] and the certainty of winning – the gambler’s goals that go beyond economics.”
As you might expect, the potential sale of the Nationals is a complicating factor in both the extension and trade talks. It’s understandable if Soto prefers to wait and see what happens with the franchise to get a feel for a new owner’s mentality. Conversely, whether or not Soto is on the team will impact sales of the team itself. Boras, unsurprisingly, thinks Soto is an asset that will increase the team’s appeal to potential buyers, as “certainly billionaires like their decisions” and want the ability to build around Soto or move to an early stage commit to rebuilding.
ESPN’s Buster Olney sees things differently, saying on yesterday’s Baseball Tonight podcast that executives around the game believe new owners want to resolve the situation one way or another before taking over. With an overtime likely off the table, that would mean closing a deal before the team’s sale is complete. Of course, we don’t yet know who the new owners will be, so this is a speculative view of the scenario (similar to Boras’ belief that the new owners will have the opportunity to make the choice themselves).
But even without the current ownership uncertainty, Boras appeared to imply that the Nationals’ offer simply wouldn’t have been enough. As we have seen Aaron Richter Before the season, Soto seems to care about being paid at an annual rate that matches baseball’s top stars.
“The rarity of Juan Soto, this is a 19-23 age range, so he really stood out to be in a very small group of ability levels in major league history,” Boras said.[Those players] will be in the highest range of yearly averages, and yet the proposal placed him well below the top bracket, in the No. 15 or 20 range.”
All of this helps further bolster the reality that Soto will at least be available in talks in the coming fortnight, but it’s entirely unclear if either team will fetch a historic price. Olney suggested in that aforementioned section that the Nationals want major league-ready talent to lead a return, adding that the Yankees and Dodgers are at least somewhat cautious about giving up the kind of tremendous prospect value, which Soto will command . The Yankees, of course, must also consider the future of their own superstar outfielder (judge) in conjunction with any theoretical Soto scenarios, which only complicates the equation on their side.