Mike Rizzo on Juan Soto trade: 'We did feel that we were not going to be able to extend him'

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Shortly after it was made official that the Nationals had traded one of the brightest young stars the franchise has ever had in Juan Soto, general manager Mike Rizzo, sporting his 2019 World Series ring, assured the fanbase that better days were ahead.

“I wore this ring purposely,” Rizzo said. “It shows what we’ve done in the past, and what we’re going to do in the future. In 2019, we had a slogan: Bumpy roads lead to beautiful places. We’re in a bumpy road right now, and we believe coming out of this thing it will be a beautiful place.”

Soto, traded to the Padres along with Josh Bell, was a 23-year-old superstar who turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer from the Nats, gave Rizzo the impression that an extension wasn’t coming, and that Soto would eventually test free agency.

“We did feel that we were not going to be able to extend him,” Rizzo said. “We felt at this time, with two and a half years remaining, three playoff runs available to Juan Soto, he would never be at more value than he is today. That’s what we predicated it on.

“There was no edict to trade him or not to trade him. It was business as usual. Ownership gave me the latitude to make a good baseball deal if I felt it was a franchise-altering deal, and it turned out that we got one to our liking, and it worked. Kudos to the other side for making it work.”

Soto was a cornerstone of that World Series team, as were Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, and Anthony Rendon, all of whom are no longer with the team. But Rizzo, while clearly emotional to say goodbye to perhaps the most promising star of them all in Soto, trusts in the process that the team has laid out while the familiar faces from the most memorable season in franchise history continue to move on elsewhere.

“I think we’ve taken several steps forward,” Rizzo said. “I think it accelerates the process. You lose a generational talent like that, but you put in five key elements of your championship roster. Along with last year’s deadline, the last three drafts and the last three international signing periods, we’ve put into this system, in the last three years, 15 or 16 high quality, high tool players that have very impactful futures ahead of them. You can see that at the minor league level now…again, it was the right move at the right time for where we are as a franchise. A difficult day, and a difficult decision we had to make.”