Mike Rizzo says all contract offers to Soto weren't countered originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
A major reason why the Nationals traded Juan Soto to the Padres stems from the team’s inability to agree on a long-term contract extension with the 23-year-old phenom and his agent Scott Boras.
General manager Mike Rizzo and Washington’s front office made three separate contract offers to Soto over the last year, including the 15-year, $440 million contract that was rejected right around the 2022 All-Star break. According to Rizzo, none of the Nats’ three offers were countered by Soto’s side.
“The agent has a history of taking most or all superstar players to free agency,” Rizzo told The Sports Junkies Wednesday. “We made three offers in the last year to Juan and none of them were countered, and there was not much discussion beyond, ‘No, we’re not going to take that offer.’ Knowing the uncertainties of the ownership situation, we felt it was unlikely he was going to sign an extension before he went to free agency.”
As Rizzo notes here, Boras has a tendency to take most of his clients to free agency to maximize their value on the open market. Not countering contract offers from teams is also common practice for Boras. Such a strategy makes the team who offers the extension bid against themselves until they offer a contract that meets Boras and the player’s wishes.
Given three offers were rejected without much discussion and Soto’s impending free agency in 2025, the Nats decided to explore trading arguably the best hitter in the game.
“We believed that we were going to build a team around Juan, but then three historic offers that were said no to — no communication, no counter offers — and we got the impression that we weren’t going to be able to extend Juan beyond this contract and he was going to become a free agent,” Rizzo said. “We had to change our plans and when we were thinking about it and thinking that we were going to be unable to extend Juan, we felt that if we got the right offer, we at least needed to look at our options, and we did.”
One benefit of trading a superstar three years before he hits free agency is the return. The Nationals were in a position to ask for a lot from interested teams, and they certainly got the package they were looking for from the Padres. San Diego sent six players, including prized young shortstop C.J. Abrams, pitcher MacKenzie Gore and outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood.
Time will tell how good these Padres prospects are and what kind of money Soto signs for in three years. What does appear certain, however, is that Soto was always going to free agency.