Juan Soto and Trea Turner set for start of cash hauls originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Wednesday will be a first step in a coming years-long journey of financial management.
Trea Turner and Juan Soto are arbitration eligible together for the first time. The Nationals need to tender contracts to both before Wednesday’s 8 p.m. deadline. They, of course, will. That doesn’t mean the sides will agree on a final salary by Wednesday night. But they will be through the initial procedural step toward hefty raises for both. And the Nationals should become accustomed to that idea.
First, the immediate impact of providing Soto and Turner their new, improved 2021 contracts will be to help the club understand their possible spending chunk for this winter. Soto achieving “Super 2” status elevates his salary from a pittance, likely under $1 million, to a factor, with him more in the $8 million range. Turner could creep to $15 million or more, a massive jump from his $7.45 million agreed to in the same situation before the 2020 season. Projections are difficult — like everything else — because of how the season was altered thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
But, what’s clear, are significant raises for Turner and Soto are starting this season and set to continue until each hits free agency. Turner can become a free agent in 2023. Soto can become a free agent in 2025 — after four years of escalating salary in arbitration.
Back in January of 2020 — five lifetimes ago, roughly — Turner told NBC Sports Washington he was open to discussing an extension with the Nationals.
“For me, I’m gray on a lot of areas,” Turner said then. “If the deal’s right, if I like it, I’m not scared to take it. Same thing, if it’s not right, I’m not going to settle. Everyone I think knows their worth, [they] at least think they’re worth something — whatever that is, high, low, willing to take less or try to get more.
“For me, I’m all ears. I’ll listen and communicate. At the end of the day, I like it here. I don’t think the grass is always greener on the other side, per se, and I’m happy where I’m at. If it comes to that, I’ll be happy to play here hopefully my entire career if they’ll let me. But, I’m also weighing all options. I think everybody should. If you don’t listen, I think it’s a little foolish.”
That was before Turner finished seventh in National League MVP voting.
When asked in 2019 about the idea of an extension, Soto demurred, telling NBC Sports Washington he would leave that to his agent, Scott Boras. Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies had just signed extremely team-friendly deals with the Atlanta Braves when Soto was asked if he had considered the idea. He was smart not to follow their lead. Both are on pace to be brutally underpaid, in particular Acuña Jr., who can’t become a free agent until 2029 when he is 31 years old, should the contract run its full course. Stunningly, the Braves hold back-to-back options in the final two years of the eight-year, $100 million knee-capping contract.
Wednesday’s deadline is also expected to finally kick loose free agent spending. The number of non-tendered players jumped from 36 in 2015 to 53 in 2019. Big names, like Kris Bryant, will likely be offered a contract. But a slew of others will not, setting what is a deep if not star-laden free agent crop. Options abound for everyone and especially the Nationals. They can pivot in so many directions that anyone initially signed elsewhere does not handcuff them. Though Mike Rizzo is often aggressive early on when the haze clears and the market setting gains clarity.
But, first things first. Turner and Soto are about to receive further cash hauls. If 2021 operates as normal, and they operate as normal, the pair will be all the more expensive in 2022. Think around $40 million for the pair with much more to come.