Washington Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto expressed irritation on Saturday hours after a report that he turned down a record deal with the rebuilding club.
The Athletic, citing unidentified sources, reported Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer to stay with the Nationals that would have been the most lucrative in baseball history. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $426.5 million contract in 2019.
The Nationals said last month they would not trade Soto, 23. But speculation that Soto will be dealt with is sure to grow after this report that he turned down a long-term deal.
Soto is a two-time All-Star who finished second in NL MVP voting last season. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.
“It really hurts to see stuff like that because I’m a guy who, on my side, just keeps it cool and tries to keep it for them and me,” Soto said before the Nationals played in Atlanta. “They just make the decision and do what they have to do.”
Soto referred questions about his contract to his agent, Scott Boras.
Soto was a key part of Washington’s 2019 championship team and turned 21 during the World Series. He won the NL batting title in 2020, led the league in on-base percentage in 2020 and 2021 en route to Silver Slugger awards in both seasons.
He’s hitting .249 with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs this season and will play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Soto reached base in a career-high 24 straight games on Saturday.
The last-place Nationals started the day with a major league-worst 30-62 score, 27 games behind the NL East-leading Mets. Washington was 14½ games behind fourth-placed Miami.
“He’s young,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I’m sure when things like that come out that are personal, it upsets people. I’m sure it bothers him a lot. But like I said, he has to understand that it’s part of the game, right? We’ve all been there at some point. But he has to go out there and remember why he’s here, and that’s to help us win games and I know he will.
Soto is the most prominent player in a team that embarked on a rebuild last year. The Lerner family, owners of the Nationals, are also considering selling the team.
Since last year’s trade deadline, when Washington traded Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and others, the Nationals are 48-104.
“I feel like winning, so I want to win every year,” Soto said. “I don’t want to keep losing. I hate losing. It’s like that. At the end of the day, we just have to go through it, because like they told me, we all have to go through those times to win a championship. For my part, I think I go through mine. I’m just going to stay positive and keep seeing things forward.
Martinez, Soto’s manager since he reached the majors aged 19 in 2018, said he plans to tell Soto to keep being himself.
“He tells me all the time that he loves baseball and that’s what he plays for,” Martinez said. “Go out there and play and have fun and don’t worry about what’s going to happen. I mean, at the end of the day, you’ll get what you deserve, we all know that. And for me, I hope it’s here.
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