Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

What the Soto news really means


So, on a calm before the storm Saturday afternoon the baseball world was shook by the news that the Nationals, officially, have Juan Soto on the trading block.

He rejected a 15yr/$440M deal, the third and (maybe?) last deal this ownership group plans on offering, and is now entertaining offers.

The team’s First offer to Soto of 13yrs/$330M was a joke for several reasons:

  • he’s one of the best 4-5 players in the game
  • it would have only taken him through his age 36 season
  • It was more than $100M off of the superstar contracts of the game.
  • Its AAV of 26.9 would have not even been top 20 in the game.

We don’t know what the second offer was, but the third would have guaranteed more total money than Trout (meaning it’d have been the largest contract in the history of the game), would have covered him until his age 38 season … but was still “only” $29.3M AAV, which is outside the top 20 all time. In that regard, yes believe it or not it was still “light.”

So, $440M is an awful lot of money. Maybe he’s dead set on setting both the overall and AAV value on a long term contract. 15yrs, $35M AAV to me is what I think he has to shoot for; that’s a $525M contract. Maybe he’s looking to wait (Scott Boras style) til he hits FA at age 26, and THEN sign a 15 year deal. That’s the best deal for him personally; its pays him til the end of his playable years, plus he gets this year’s $17M, next year’s likely $23M, and the last arb year of probably $28M or so. That’s more like an 18year, nearly $600M deal.

So, all that being said, it has to be about more than the money. Why would he reject this contract now? For me, it has to be just one thing: the Nationals are not going to be competitive for years. Years. And he doesn’t want to wait until he’s 30 to be in the playoffs again, which is a serious possibility if he resigns in DC right now.

This team bottomed out with 100+ losses in 2008 and 2009, then 3 years later they were a 100 win team. So, why aren’t we projecting a similar bounce here? Well, because …

  • in 2008 & 2009: we didn’t have tens of millions of dollars of deferred dollars on the books (not that they “count” towards the luxury tax, but the Lerner’s have really kicked the expenses can down the road for the next decade).
  • Thus we had the payroll flexibility back then to “buy” a Jayson Werth and an Adam LaRoche and a 4th starter in Edwin Jackson to fill in the holes. We don’t have that right now.
  • That 2012 team had four significant home-grown prospects in its top 6 WAR leaders: 2nd rounder Jordan Zimmerman, 1st rounder Bryce Harper, 1st rounder Ryan Zimmerman, and 1st rounder Stephen Strasburg
  • Two of these guys were 1st overall, transformative picks who raced through the minors to get to the big club and were major contributors that year.
  • The farm system was great in 2012: #1 in the sport in Jan 2012 per BA, which we leveraged to acquire a front-line starter in Gio Gonzalez to power the rotation.

Meanwhile, compare and contrast to where we are now.

  • In 2022, we’ve got a $161M payroll this year to go dead last. Some of this was planned expenditures to go away with players we trade ($15M for Cruz, $10M for Bell) …
  • But … as we all know, we’ve got $58M a year tied up with two starters who are currently on the 60-day DL (perhaps permanently) and posting a 5.87 ERA while leading the league in such categories as Losses, Earned Runs allowed, and Hits allowed.
  • We’re not in a position to draft generational 1-1 players … yet. We’re not picking up a Harper or Strasburg this year, maybe not next either (where the projected 1-1 guys are solid but not historic college bats).
  • Zimmermann was a 2nd round pick; when was the last time we had a competent 2nd round pick? Here’s our 2nd round picks going backwards to Zimmermann from 2021 to 2007: Lile, Infante/Henry, Lost-pick in 2019, Cate, Crowe, Neuse, Stevenson/Perkins in 2015, Suarez (didn’t sign), Johansen, Renda, Lost pick in 2011, Solis, Kobernus, Hood, and Zimmermann in 2007. LOOK AT THAT LIST. This is your 2nd highest pick, every year. This is basically 15 years of incompetence. Its patently amazing. From this entire list you have a decent current prospect in Henry, a current middle Reliver (Crowe, with Pittsburgh), a utility infielder hitting .230 (Neuse), a guy who was DFA’d and outrighted earlier this year in Stevenson, and a loogy in Solis. For 15 years of 2nd rounders.
  • Most of our prospect depth is in Low-A or below right now, especially on the hitter side.
  • We’re somewhere in the deep 20s in terms of a Farm System.

So … i think Soto is reading the writing on the wall and saying to himself … it might be 4-5 years before we compete again. And this team (as is custom in this league) will bottom out before it builds again, so a couple years from now could be really, really bleak. Why would he commit to that rebuild, when he can go to a team that can and will spend (Yankees), or go to a team where money is no object (Mets), or go to a team has more competent draft teams than ours (Dodgers).

So, here we are. I wonder what this does to a potential sale. Would a prospective buyer be “ok” with the team selling off its most marketable asset? Or, would they not want to be saddled with a $400M+ contract coming in the door? Probably the latter honestly.

This team let Harper walk after not really giving him a competitive offer. They let Rendon walk. And now they’re probably going to at least get something in return for Soto.

Written by Todd Boss

July 17th, 2022 at 7:09 am

Posted in Nats in General

27 Responses to 'What the Soto news really means'

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  1. No guarantee of a 1/1 pick next year, either, with the draft lottery starting. That wrinkle was to keep teams from tanking. The Nats aren’t intentionally tanking, though; this is just a lot of incompetence plus questionable personnel decisions (signing Cruz instead of a couple of starters, etc.) and a decade of awful drafting coming home to roost.

    The deal speculation that is cropping up is rather amazing. Nearly every fan site of every team has a post about what their team might be willing to give up to get a generational talent who is only 23 and already has experience being a key cog in a World Series win. At least everyone seems to understand that it’s going to take an epic deal to make this happen.

    And that’s sort of the sticking point. There just aren’t that many teams with the volume of high-level prospect talent to make a competitive bid. Many folks keep mentioning the Dodgers, but the Nats got their top two prospects last summer. The Dodgers don’t really have top-25 prospect talent. They could give quantity, but not high-level quality.

    Some writers are only concentrating on teams with the cash flow sign Soto to an extension. But even if you don’t have that kind of money but are contending, why wouldn’t three years of Soto carrying you in the playoffs be worth it? What if prospect-rich Tampa could put Soto in the middle of its lineup? Or Seattle? Those are the current AL wild cards, and both have a lot of prospects.

    In the NL, you have teams like St. Louis and San Diego that have a history of making some high-profile trades. The Nats were in serious talks with the Padres last summer so presumably have a good knowledge of their prospect crop.

    One lesson from last summer is that Rizzo didn’t rush into the big deal. He got at least a couple of bidders involved and maximized the package.

    It’ll be interesting. I do think this is the step that the Nats have no choice but to take to maximize their return. Few teams have the level of return they’ll be seeking, though. Some are already speculating that a Corbin contract dump will be a part of it to make it possible to reach equity. (Stras won’t be a part of it, plus I think he has 10/5 rights anyway.) All in all, I would rather not include Corbin, would rather get the maximum level of prospect return. That said, if they did clear Corbin off the ledger, that would give them more flexibility to sign free agents.

    One last point to remember — Soto is a Boras client, so there’s no guarantee that he’ll sign where he’s traded. Just ask the Dodgers how Scherzer is working out in their rotation this year, and how the Turner extension talks are going.


    17 Jul 22 at 9:06 am

  2. Once Soto switched agents to Boras he was as as good as gone. 1 out of 100 Boras clients show any loyalty to their home team and that’s the way Boras likes it.

    Good for the Nats to release their offer, makes Soto look really greedy and no more the likable kid.

    Mark L

    17 Jul 22 at 10:36 am

  3. final dual mock, with both Callis and Mayo picking:

    Callis has the Rangers taking Green, leaving Parada for the Nats, while Mayo has the Rangers on Parada, with the Nats taking Lee and Green falling to #9. Interestingly, both of them have Collier falling a lot further (#8 and #11) than most other mocks do.

    For the Nats, both say that Green is being discussed but that a college bat from among Parada, Lee, and Berry seems more likely.


    17 Jul 22 at 10:37 am

  4. Post and conversation at NatsTalk that the Nats will make one more offer to Soto. Why? What good does it do to have a $45 million player when the rest of the cast is mediocre? (The same question applies to the Wizards, BTW.) Soto and Boras have no incentive to take an extension with a bad team (nine losses in a row — yikes). Maximize the return by trading him now.


    17 Jul 22 at 10:45 am

  5. Longenhagen with a few twists in his last-minute mock:


    On Nats: “Too good to pass up in this situation, Parada is the only player whose name has been mentioned with Washington during my calls. LSU ‘third baseman’ Jacob Berry has been described as “having homes all over the top 10” and it’s feasible for him to go here, but less likely if Parada is still on the board.”


    17 Jul 22 at 12:46 pm

  6. Taking Hector Gómez at his word (and he was right that the Nats were negotiating with Soto recently), I’m not sure how to interpret it. Did the Nats get cold feet about moving on from Soto after the news broke? Was it a strategic leak to try to put pressure on Soto/Boras to come back to the table? Is this next offer going to substantially differ from the offer Soto/Boras rejected without countering?

    I’d love to see Soto in Washington for life, but he’s gonna be playing on some *real bad* teams for a while if he stays. And trading Soto could instantly transform our farm system from being in the bottom tier to being top-tier or second-tier, depending on the return.

    Turning to today’s draft, suppositions and predictions for the Nats are all over the place. Most of the trustworthy pundits seem to feel the Nats’ flirtation with Green was little more than that and they’re likely to go the college route instead (which is a good thing). Some also seem to feel the first two picks are probably chalk (Jones and Holliday in some order) and the Rangers would next pivot to Parada, which would take the Nats’ top target off the board and leave them deciding between probably Lee, Berry, and maybe Collier. Now, obviously, having the fifth overall pick and ending up with a medium-upside, bat-only prospect like Berry would be disappointing to me, but at least it’s a safer route than trying to shoot the moon with Green, who I’m not at all convinced will hit at the next level.


    17 Jul 22 at 1:20 pm

  7. In his last-minute 3.1 mock, McDaniel switches Nats from Berry to Green, with no explanation. Green makes NO sense for the Nats. Hell, take Rocker before you take Green, if you want a high-risk/high-reward pick.


    17 Jul 22 at 4:48 pm

  8. Doughtery says multiple people have told him that the Nats aren’t increasing their offer in the near future. Dougherty suggests that the Nats may stay at $440 total but shorten the years to 12 or 13 to increase AAV. Says Soto/Boras want highest total amount ever and highest AAV ever. Whatever. I’m all in now for highest trade return ever.

    As Sao said, the team is going to be really bad for the foreseeable future if they keep Soto. The only real way to speed up a turnaround is to get half a team of quality guys in return for him.

    I would say that maybe they could extend Bell, but he’s also a Boras guy.


    17 Jul 22 at 5:02 pm

  9. I don’t know if this is an unpopular opinion, but I’m fine with Soto turning down the offer. MLB revenues keep going up but player salaries are dropping. There’s limited correlation between Soto’s salary and things like ticket prices (see e.g. the Pirates having the third highest ticket price increase this year). A player like Soto can help set the market for other free agents and for arbitration eligible players. If Soto eventually signs for 600 million, that makes life a little richer for everyone else. I support more of baseball’s revenue going to players.

    Of course I would RATHER it went to minor league players and pre-arbitration players, but that’s really up to Collective Bargaining, which continues to be disappointing.


    17 Jul 22 at 5:08 pm

  10. Oh, I don’t blame Soto at all. By market standards, he’s worth more than the Nats are offering, probably far more. And by the standard of NBA contracts, the MLB ones are really lacking. Maybe the NBA ones are out of line, but they’re never going to go in a downward direction.

    One of the real problems with MLB is that the luxury tax line hasn’t kept pace with salary inflation. Another is that there is no incentive for teams to have a salary floor anywhere near the peak. Every team in the NBA can give a “super-max” contract, but very few in MLB can.

    Of course another problem with MLB contracts is that they are getting longer and longer, and every cent is guaranteed. The Nats have no way out of the Corbin and Strasburg contracts, and Soto’s will be longer, and more expensive than, those two put together. Maybe he’ll stay great for that long, . . . but this weekend we’re watching Robinson Cano stumble around hitting .198, with no range in the field, and he’s still owed almost $50M over the next two years.


    17 Jul 22 at 5:51 pm

  11. Definitely some late buzz around Berry at #5, but also some contradictory indicators.

    It seems like Parada is the safe bet, if there is such a thing. But Berry is probably in play, Lee might be, maybe Collier, and then of course there’s Green if the Nats front office absolutely loses its mind.

    I will be pretty disappointed with either Berry (not enough upside) or Green (way too risky). Satisfied to happy with really anyone else in the convo.


    17 Jul 22 at 7:02 pm

  12. I’m pretty much on the same page with Sao. Green is too risky, and there are better options than Berry, although I’d prefer Berry to Green.

    Sounds like the Ranger pick at #3 could define some things for the Nats. They’re thought to be between Parada and Green.


    17 Jul 22 at 7:12 pm

  13. BOOOOOM! Rocker at #3!!!!!


    17 Jul 22 at 7:28 pm

  14. Ugh. I’ve had a bad feeling about today for weeks. I don’t know why I’m so shocked that Mike Rizzo would do something so stupid with the Nats’ best draft pick in years.


    17 Jul 22 at 7:45 pm

  15. Green to Nats. Damn. Just makes no sense. Possibility the highest ceiling in the draft . . . and the lowest floor.


    17 Jul 22 at 7:47 pm

  16. Nats are “the right organization to develop him.” Harold Reynolds, what are you smoking?


    17 Jul 22 at 7:49 pm

  17. You know, I’ve had a feeling about Green and the Nats literally since last year. An athletic stud who has swing-and-miss issues and his stock cools slightly. Two years in a row, the Nats have taken the guy who looks like a House.

    I would love to be wrong, to have Green become a fast-rising superstar. But with contact issues, you just don’t rise fast. Just hope he makes it.

    But I’m watching the Brooks Lee package right now wistfully . . .


    17 Jul 22 at 8:07 pm

  18. BTW, with two pitchers going in the top seven, the desperation for pitching is going to move up a lot of guys. I don’t think someone as good as Blade Tidwell will still be on the board at #45.

    And another pitcher at #10 . . .

    Collier and Parada fall all the way through the top 10.


    17 Jul 22 at 8:14 pm

  19. You know why they took Green? Because they’re years from contending. Parada and college guys are win now moves. The Nats are getting ready to really, really tear it all down.

    So yeah, House last year, Green this year? I’m a-ok with this move.

    Parada: blocked by Ruiz.
    Lee: a solid alternative … but not the ceiling of Green.
    Berry: i know everyone’s all hot and bothered about him … but read his scouting reports. He has no position. He can’t play in the dirt, he can’t play a corner. He’s ALREADY a DH.

    Green was the right choice.

    Todd Boss

    17 Jul 22 at 8:22 pm

  20. Heres MLB’s scouting report on Green:

    Green is the son of former NFL Pro Bowl tight end Eric Green, and at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, he looks like he could have followed in his father’s footsteps had he not desired a future on the diamond. Green really jumped on the map with a strong performance at the Area Code Underclass event back in the summer of 2020, leading some to wish he’d reclassified for the 2021 Draft, but he’s shown off his tremendous raw tools at IMG Academy this spring to put himself in position to be a very high Draft pick in 2022. A right-handed hitter, Green is capable of doing just about everything very well. He can make very loud contact and has proven he can drive the ball to all fields and hit the ball out of the park just about anywhere with at least plus raw power, and he’s done that this spring in front of a lot of decision makers. . The one question that had arisen about his offensive upside had been about the swing-and-miss in his game. He’s struggled in the past against elevated velocity and there are some concerns about his ability to adjust to offspeed and breaking stuff, but had assuaged many of those fears with how he has swung the bat this spring. Green is an elite-level runner who can steal bases and cover a ton of ground in the outfield, where he should be able to man center field, with a plus arm, for a very long time to come. His complete toolset doesn’t come around very often, so it’s likely someone in the top of the first round will call his name even if there are remaining questions about his hit tool.

    Todd Boss

    17 Jul 22 at 8:24 pm

  21. here’s BA’s scouting report on Green:

    Green is one of the most dynamic and unique athletes scouts have seen on the baseball field in a long time. The son of 10-year NFL tight end Eric Green, Elijah’s physicality would stand out on a football field and is almost unheard of on the baseball field at his age. At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, Green has tremendous strength and power currently and would look right at home standing next to the top sluggers in baseball as an 18-year-old. His power/speed combination with his frame gives him the biggest pure upside in the 2022 draft class as a righthanded hitter with the power to drive the ball out of any ballpark, while also turning in 70-grade run times. As one scout remarked, “Guys that big and that strong aren’t supposed to be running 6.5 in the 60.” Green isn’t a raw hitter without a plan at the plate either. He has an impressive track record of performance as an underclassman and accessed his power regularly in games over the summer showcase circuit, with USA Baseball’s 18U National Team—where he homered four times in seven games—and this spring against strong competition with IMG Academy. There is swing and miss in Green’s game. He’ll get caught out in front on breaking balls and he has shown whiff tendencies against velocity as well, but he should make more than enough impact to live with those whiffs. He has more than enough speed for center field now, and will likely begin his career at the position, but will need to refine his routes and reactions to stick there long term. It’s uncommon to see a major league center fielder with Green’s size, but he is an outlier athlete. If he does have to move to a corner he has the tools to be an above-average defender in right, with plus arm strength to profile nicely there. While other hitters in this class might top Green as a pure hitter, you won’t find anyone with his combination of dynamic athleticism, power, speed and pure upside.

    Todd Boss

    17 Jul 22 at 8:25 pm

  22. This is exactly the same crap we heard for years about Víctor Robles, and Michael A. Taylor before him, and Danny Espinosa before him, and Ian Desmond before him. He’ll hit enough homers you won’t even notice he strikes out a ton!

    Well. Uh. We noticed. And it limited their ceiling dramatically. We were sold a bill of goods on them as future superstars, just like we’re being sold a bill of goods now with the disastrous Green pick. And they ended up being glove-first role players.

    We keep doing the same thing over and over again. Maybe this is the time it will finally work. Here’s hoping, I guess, assuming he actually signs. (I hope he doesn’t and we recoup the pick at #6 next year, but that seems like a thin reed of hope to grasp onto.)


    17 Jul 22 at 8:35 pm

  23. The other thing that concerns me about Green is the rumor that he wants more $$$ than anyone in the class. It seems a reasonable assumption that he’s a Boras client. Anyway, he might put a crimp on the Nats’ pool money. They need more than just one player, so sure hope they are getting talent down through the draft.


    17 Jul 22 at 9:47 pm

  24. Green has the same agent as Francisco Lindor. I think we’ll have a good sense from the Nats’ second-round selection in a few minutes here.


    17 Jul 22 at 9:59 pm

  25. And it’s a (slight) reach for Jake Bennett. Figure we sign him modestly below slot to help pay for the Greendoggle.


    17 Jul 22 at 11:10 pm

  26. Had the same immediate thought about Bennett being an underslot reach, particularly with Tidwell and Priellip still on the board. The Mets took two guys the Nats passed on, Parada and Tidwell.

    FWIW, McDaniel is much more bullish on Bennett (#39) than Longenhagen (#55) or Callis/Mayo (#68), although McDaniel also says that he may end up as a reliever or back-end starter.


    18 Jul 22 at 7:19 am

  27. Third round starts at 2 pm ET. The Nats don’t figure to have the money for one of the hard-to-sign high schoolers, and the top collegians remaining right now are pitchers, Jonathan Cannon of Georgia chief among them.

    At some point today, I’ll continue my campaign for Sonny DiChiara, the massive bopper from Auburn. I’d also take Tim Elko of Ole Miss in the latter part of the ten rounds. He’s hardly on any draft list, but he was THE money hitter in the CWS. And he’s out of college eligibility so will be an easy/cheap sign.


    18 Jul 22 at 7:53 am

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