Juan Soto Passes On 13-Year, $350 Million Contract
$350 million may look eye-popping on paper, but it’s technically below market value. That is, if you’re Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto.
Soto will have a chance to annihilate contract records when he becomes a free agent in three years. So it’s not surprising that the 23-year-old eschewed Washington’s offer of a 13-year contract worth $350 million prior to the lockout.
“Yes, they made me the offer a couple of months ago, before the lockout we have in baseball,” Soto said. “But right now, me and my agents think the best option is to go year after year and wait for free agency. My agent, Scott Boras, is in control of that situation.”
The contract included no deferred salary, which has been a sticking point in Nationals contracts in the past. And the $350 million would obliterate the current contract record for a player with 3-4 years of service time (Freddie Freeman, eight-year, $135 million extension with Atlanta).
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The 13-year, $350 million offer is akin to the 14-year, $340 million contract the San Diego Padres gave Fernando Tatis Jr. last year, with a few key differences:
– Soto is one year closer to free agency now than Tatis was when he signed his contract
– Soto is going through arbitration four times as a Super Two; Tatis would have gone through it the usual three times. The proximity to free agency and Super Two status increases Soto’s earning potential.
Assuming the league makes it through the lockout, Soto is projected to make roughly $16 million in 2022. With good health and continued stellar performance, arbitration could push his 2023 salary into the $24 million range, and 2024’s north of $30 million.
His annual salary had he signed the $350 million contract would have been just under $27 million per year.
Soto is well-positioned to set arbitration records. Mookie Betts holds the arbitration record with a $27 million salary before proration in 2020, though Nolan Arenado had sought $30 million via arbitration before signing his long-term extension in 2019.
If he continues playing as well as he has, he’ll have a chance to be MLB’s first $500 million player, with $400 million feeling like his floor.
He was the NL MVP runner-up last season, during which he hit .313/.465/.534 with 29 home runs and an incredible .345/.545/.639 in the second half with 87 walks and 41 strikeouts.
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