‘I always see my future here’: Juan Soto focuses on baseball, not contract

‘I always see my future here’: Soto focuses on baseball, not contract originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Juan Soto could very well become baseball’s first $500 million man. The Washington Nationals are gearing up for the 2022 Major League season, but the face of the franchise’s contract status looms heavy over the club as spring training draws closer.

For the 23-year-old slugger, though, baseball is the only thing on his mind. When asked about his future in D.C., Soto gave an encouraging answer for the team and its fans.

“I always see my future here,” Soto told reporters in West Palm Beach on Monday. “I feel happy with the team, everything they’ve done for me. I feel pretty good. I never think about leaving or anything like that. Right now, I just think about baseball and try to stay in shape and try to get another championship.”

Washington was clearly eager to lock Soto in long-term earlier in the offseason. The Nationals offered the star outfielder a 13-year, $350 million deal in February—which would’ve been the third-largest contract in MLB history—but Soto declined. 

“Yes, I got an offer a couple of months ago, before the [lockout] we have right now in baseball,” Soto said at the time of the offer. “For now, me and my agents are thinking the best option will be to [consider] it year by year and wait until free agency.”

Soto has repeated his stance that while he does enjoy playing with the Nationals, he will leave the negotiation aspect of his upcoming contract to his agent, Scott Boras. 

Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo discussed Soto’s status this past weekend and went into a bit of detail on the original 13/$350 million offer the team made last month.

“We’re gonna attack a deal with Juan Soto. This is his team. He’s the face of the franchise and I want him here for the long-term, so we’re gonna continue to talk and try to make him a Nat for a long time,” Rizzo said Sunday. “We made the offer really right before we couldn’t talk to him anymore, so there really wasn’t a lot of dialogue because there wasn’t any time. We made an offer and all of a sudden the lockout happened and we didn’t have much dialogue after that.”

So where do things stand as the post-lockout Opening Day date of April 7th draws nearer?

“Our side has plans to pick it up very soon. He’s our number one priority,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo hammering away at the fact that the Nationals are ‘Juan Soto’s team’ certainly bodes well for contract negotiations, as both sides seem to be in agreement on Soto’s value: the hottest young commodity on the baseball market. He is set to hit free agency after the 2024 season.

Soto has set himself up quite nicely for a well-deserved extension. At just 23, he’s taken home a World Series trophy, two Silver Sluggers and a batting title while finishing among the top 10 in NL MVP voting each of the last three years.

With that in mind, Washington’s 2022 season will be viewed under a microscope. The team is in a rebuild, having shipped away several veterans at last season’s trade deadline fire sale. If the Nationals can show Soto and Boras that they’ll be competitive in the majors for the majority of his yet-undetermined extension, that could be enticing to Soto’s camp. For now, though, Soto is only focusing on the game.

“I’m ready to go,” Soto said. “You see me, I’m ready.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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