Nationals won’t dilute return in potential Juan Soto trade by adding ‘bad contracts’

Nats won't dilute potential Soto return by dumping money originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

As the Nationals explore any and all options after Juan Soto rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract offer from the club, one possible avenue they could take would include attaching bad contracts to Soto in a potential trade to increase their financial flexibility moving forward. 

One candidate in the “bad contract” department for the Nationals could be Patrick Corbin, who has two years and $59 million left on his contract after this season.

Corbin signed a six-year, $140 million deal with Washington in 2019 and played a major role in their run to a World Series title, but hasn’t been nearly as effective in the three seasons since that magical run. Since the start of 2020, Corbin has a 5.66 ERA in 62 starts. He’s allowed 65 home runs during that span.  

However, don’t expect the Nationals to attach bad contracts to Soto — or any outgoing National — in a potential trade. Mike Rizzo and his front office would rather maximize the team’s return. 

“We’ve never contacted a team and talked about Juan Soto and attaching any contracts to any player,” GM Mike Rizzo told the Sports Junkies Wednesday. “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, Josh Bell’s or anybody’s.”

As far as recent examples of a team attaching a bad contract to an outgoing superstar, look no further than the Mookie Betts trade. The Red Sox attached the last three years and $96 million of David Price’s contract to Betts in a trade with the Dodgers and received Alex Verdugo and two prospects (Jeter Downs, Connor Wong) in return. 

Considering Betts was 26 years old and one year removed from an MVP season and World Series title, Boston could have likely gotten more for him in the form of players if they didn’t include Price. 

No baseball team is the same, though. Just because the Nats don’t want to dilute their return by shedding money, it doesn’t mean the Red Sox screwed up. They still had Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi on big-money contracts at the time of the trade, not to mention Rafael Devers’ looming free agency in 2024. 

For the Nationals, however, if they’re going to trade Soto it’ll signal a full-fledged rebuild. Their primary financial commitments at that point would be Corbin and Stephen Strasburg, who has four years and $140 million left on his contract after 2022. Corbin also has a partial no-trade clause in his contract, per the Washington Post, which could allow him to block a trade to a specified list of teams.

Without a terribly competitive roster or high payroll, Washington can afford to extract as much value as they can in trade talks and allow Corbin and Strasburg to right themselves during the remaining time on their respective contracts. 

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