The Nationals could have Juan Soto for another three seasons, or they could have him for the rest of his Major League career.
With Soto scheduled to hit free agency after the 2024 season, his agent, Scott Boras, isn't closing the door on getting a deal done before then. Provided the Nationals meet certain criteria.
"Juan Soto wants to win, so the first thing that's gonna have to happen is that he knows that he's working with an ownership that's gonna annually try to compete and win," Boras told reporters on Wednesday. "And then I think once he knows that, then he'll be ready to sit down and talk whenever they choose to talk."
Boras is notorious for bringing his clients to the open market, where they can secure the best deal possible. Although, there are rare exceptions to that rule, including one in the Nationals' own backyard.
In May 2016, starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg famously signed a seven-year, $175 million extension in season that helped him avoid free agency the following offseason. And again in 2019, after the Nationals won the World Series, Strasburg opted out of that deal (per the terms of his previous contract) and Washington rewarded him with a new one, this time with a contract valued at $245 million over seven years.
Considering his extensive track record of pushing clients to free agency, Boras was asked if it's even possible that Soto could sign an extension with the Nats before the expiration date on his rookie contract comes due.
"Well, I do have a record. You name me my guys we've taken to free agency and I'll name you a guy that we haven't. What we do is we listen to players and we follow what players tell us to do, because we work for them. Other than that, Juan, I just know that Juan has mentioned to me that he wants to make sure he's working for a club that's going to compete annually."
Baseball has seen superstars sign record-shattering deals in the past few years, led by Mike Trout's 12-year, $430 million extension with the Angels in March 2019. In July 2020, Mookie Betts inked a 12-year, $365 million extension with the Dodgers. And then last offseason, the Padres locked up Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year, $340 million deal.
Soto's next contract could top all of those, especially if he continues putting up MVP numbers in the next three seasons. And in the next week, Soto's price could actually go up even further, if you can believe it. Soto was named an MVP finalist in the National League this week. The winner is scheduled to be announced next Thursday.
Nationals ownership has doled out large contracts to starting pitchers, as was the case with Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and the aforementioned Strasburg, but they've been reluctant to spread money around in that same way for position players.
Washington let Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk in free agency in consecutive offseasons, after the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively.
The club has only broached the century mark for one position player: Ryan Zimmerman, who signed a six-year, $100 million extension with the Nationals in Feb. 2012 that ran through the 2019 season.