Mike Rizzo confirms details of Juan Soto extension offer, but denies leaking them

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It's been 11 days since Ken Rosenthal first reported that Juan Soto rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension from the Washington Nationals.

It's a leak that thrust Soto into the national spotlight a day before participating in the Home Run Derby, forcing him to answer for questions from an onslaught of national reporters who were in Los Angeles to cover the All-Star Weekend festivities, causing the 23-year-old slugger to look over his shoulder and question who to trust.

Now, all these days later, after Soto and the Nats have soaked up the lion's share of headlines in the baseball world like a sponge, Mike Rizzo, Nationals General Manager and President of Baseball Operations, is speaking out.

Rizzo, who was conveniently absent from his weekly radio appearance with The Sports Junkies last week as the Soto trade rumors kicked into full swing, began his Wednesday appearance by outright denying leaking the details of the extension offer to Rosenthal, or any other reporters for that matter.

"Leaks are so difficult," Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan. "In this age of social media, who knows where some of these things come from. All I can tell you is unequivocally it did not come from me, for sure, 100 percent for sure, or from our front office. That much I know for sure."

"We had this information three weeks before it leaked out," he said, "so we had ample time to leak it out if we wanted to leak it out. Leaks never, ever help a situation. It was disappointing to me. I was upset about it. It's something that I would just like to know who leaked it out just to have that information and make sure it didn't come from anybody in Baseball Operations."

Rizzo also confirmed the details of Rosenthal's report were accurate, that the Nats indeed offered Soto $440 million over 15 years.

"Yeah, that's the thing, because reports come out all the time," he said. "We've made three, what we feel three above-market-value offers to Juan during this baseball season. Two of them had come out before this one. Both of them were inaccurate in the terms and in kind of the guts of the contract. This one was accurate and that led us to believe it was somebody obviously with real knowledge of the situation, where the other ones were inaccurate, so that information could be leaked out there by people who really don't know or who are guessing or think they have the information."

Soto's agent Scott Boras brought up publicly that the Nationals are up for sale, suggesting that the leak could have been a way for the Lerners to place a definitive value on Soto as an asset for potential buyers of the team. Rizzo was asked if he believes Boras was the source of the leak.

"I don't know who did it," Rizzo said. "I guess Rosenthal's the one who broke it, so really only Ken knows who actually came to him with the information. I'd like to find out with that. All I can tell you is that Mike Rizzo did not leak the information or his people in the front office. That's what I know 100 percent. It did not help us in anything we're trying to do. It didn't help us in keeping a good relationship with Juan. It didn't help us in any kind of leverage at the trade deadline. It really didn't help us. It really hurt us that the information got out."

"And it's not the right thing to do," he continued. "We've had a hundred negotiations with the Boras Corporation over my career and we never leak out the information, and it was disappointing that this information got leaked out."

Rizzo was asked if reports are true that the Nationals' $440 million offer was effectively a best and final, and that after Soto turned it down, the only move left to make is to trade him.

"Here's how the situation goes," Rizzo said. "This was the ultimate respectful interaction with Juan. We've made him several offers. We've made sure that he knows that we want him here for the rest of his career. This is business. It's not personal. This is business. He has the right to go to free agency, to turn down deals and that type of thing."

"I respect that as a player that he has earned that right," he said. "But my relationship with the players is nothing if it's not we're man to man and we discuss things face to face. And when we offered Juan this contract with his agent's knowledge, we told him when the deal was turned down, we said, 'We're going to have to explore all our options.' And that's all we've ever said."

"I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't explore all the options that now present us," Rizzo continued. "We've got a pretty good option. We've got a talented Juan Soto for two and a half more seasons. That's Option A — that's a good one. But we also have to think about Options B and C, and my job is to make this organization a consummate winner again, like we did from 2012 to 2019, be a consistent winner. I have to figure out ways as the caretaker of this franchise to make us a championship organization for a long time to come."

Washington's offer to Soto equates to an average annual value (AAV) of $29.33 million. There is some idea that Boras is holding out for an AAV in the range of $43.33 million, the same AAV Max Scherzer received on a three-year deal with the Mets. That's an idea that was floated by Jon Heyman after a lengthy discussion with Boras, to be clear.

Extrapolate an AAV of that magnitude out over 15 years and the ideal offer, in Boras' mind, might look more like $649.95 million, In other words, Washington's offer may have fallen $209.95 million short of that. A gulf that sizable in expectations might explain why Soto turned down the largest offer in Major League history.

Rizzo was asked if the reason Boras and Soto rejected Washington's offer was due to what they perceived to be an AAV that was lacking, or if it had more to do with the instability of ownership and which direction the franchise could be headed in.

"I've had those discussions with Scott and with Juan personally and those are private conversations that I'm gonna keep between us," Rizzo said. "But I'm sure all those reasons factor into the decision that he made. Again, I do not take this as an affront to the Washington Nationals. I don't take this personally. This is a young, exciting, talented player that has every right to explore the market as he sees fit. We made a historical offer to him and he turned it down."

"Again, am I upset with Juan Soto for doing that? No," he said. "I've known the kid since he's 15 years old. I know him as good as anybody in the world, as good as his agency, as good as his teammates. I've been with him a long time and he's one of the most wonderful players that I've ever been around and I respect the choices that he made. Again, this isn't personal against Mike Rizzo or the Washington Nationals. This is business."

The Sports Junkies asked Rizzo why Scherzer making $43.33 million in AAV wouldn't raise the bar for other players.

"We're talking about a historic contract with Juan and it's hard to compare a 15-year deal, which 13 of those years are new money because we have him for two arbitration years, to a three-year contract for a 37-year-old pitcher," Rizzo said. "It's apples and oranges to me."

"We certainly would [unintelligible] Juan Soto a Max Scherzer-type of deal after his arbitration years were up, but that wouldn't work either," he said. "It's hard to compare a three-year deal for a 37-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher — who I drafted, signed and loved, also — to a 13-new-year deal with 15 years total. That's not the comp. The comps are the Bryce Harpers and the Mike Trouts and the Mookie Betts and the Fernando Tatises of the world. Same type of ages. Same type of years on these contracts. And this contract blows all those away."

As for the trade offers that are surely rolling in for Soto from other clubs, Rizzo wouldn't confirm specifics but did acknowledge being in talks with "several teams."

"I mean, we're in conversations with Juan Soto, with several teams that I think have real interest in him," he said. "Also with several other players that have had interest with other teams. I'm not gonna handicap if we're gonna trade him or not. I will say this: We're gonna have to get the deal that we want that makes the most sense, that gets us an opportunity to become a championship organization faster than not trading him. So that's it in a nutshell."

The Nationals have let Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer walk in recent years, either through free agency or trade but all with the same cause: the Nationals' inability to secure long-term contracts for their stars, some of them homegrown.

Asked if he's worried about Nationals fans punching out if Soto, too, walks out the door, Rizzo replied, "You know, that tells me that we've got a lot of good players coming through Washington, D.C. We've got division titles, we've got World Championship trophies, we've got Silver Sluggers, MVPs, Cy Young Award winners."

"We're running a lot of talent through Washington, D.C.," he continued. "I grew up a Cubs fan and they didn't win a World Series for 109 years. In my lifetime as a Chicagoan when I lived there, they never won it. If the fans like the product on the field, if it's a winning product, if they play the way the fans want them to play, if the team really embraces the name on the front of the jersey and is a good role model and a good team for the fans of Washington, D.C. to get behind, they're going to love this team."

"We've had some really good players through here. Some have stayed. Some have gone," he said. "We continue to put a good product, championship product on the field. And we're down right now, we're easy to kick because we're in last place, but we'll be back. We're gonna be back. We've got a tried-and-true formula. We've got a plan to make this thing work. The plan is in place. This reboot started at this time last year, around Aug. 1 around the trade deadline.

"So we're one year into this reboot and I see progress in the minor league system, I see guys at the upper ends of the minor leagues that are gonna be big contributors in the near future. We've had three solid drafts, we had a great trade deadline last year, and we see this organization going in the right direction. We've done it before. Not many teams can say 'here's our plan' and prove that it works. We have done that. We've done it. We've come from the depths of bad seasons with 100-plus loss seasons to 98 wins in 2012, relatively quickly."

"And we think that we're on that same pace or even quicker to get it done this time and we've got the track record to do it," Rizzo added. "We know how to do it. We've got a great system in place and I think that when this thing is all sorted out, you'll see this organization moving forward and winning championships again in the very near future."

Rizzo was asked how a new ownership group might factor into his decision-making, if at all, and if the new groups being vetted can communicate with him what they want moving forward.

"We are business as usual," Rizzo said. "It has not factored in one bit to the decision-making process that we do. My bosses are the Lerners. They give me my marching orders and we put the plan in place and it has not affected us one bit."

Rizzo was asked how he'd characterize his relationship with Boras, who has represented a number of marquee Nationals players, both current and in the past, including Harper, Scherzer, Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and now Soto.

"Same way. I've known him for 30 years, done billions of dollars in contracts with him and I respect the way he handles his clients," Rizzo said. "I think he has his clients' best interests in mind. Sometimes his ideas and my ideas don't align and that happens, but again, we've done a lot of business in the past and I anticipate we'll do business in the future.

"Got absolutely no problem with the way he handles his clients. He's an advocate for his players and that's how that agent-player relationship works and how it should work. Sometimes it's in line with what we want to do, sometimes it isn't."

Lastly, Rizzo was asked about a report from R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports suggesting that the Nationals may seek to lump Patrick Corbin's remaining salary in with a Soto trade.

"Is that something that's legitimate," Rizzo was asked. "Or is that just R.J. Anderson just making things up?"

"I wouldn't know R.J. Anderson if I fell over him," Rizzo said through laughter. "I don't know where R.J. is getting his information from. Obviously not from anybody from the Washington Nationals. There's so much speculation and there's so much minutiae out there in the social media world, it's frustrating and maddening for me to read most of it."

"We've never contacted a team and talked about Juan Soto and attaching any contract to any player," he said definitively. "We're not gonna dilute a return for any player by adding a bad contract. That's not where we're at in our organization at this time. We want to get the most for each and every trade that we do, so we certainly are not going to tack on anybody's contract to anybody's deal, including Juan Soto's or Josh Bell's or anybody's."