Last month, outfielder Juan Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension from the Washington Nationals. It was the largest contract offer in history and would have set Soto up for life. However, it would have also locked him into a deal for the vast majority of his career, if not the entirety of it. And with the Nationals struggling mightily since winning the 2019 World Series, Soto sought greener pastures elsewhere.
Looks like he’ll be trading politics for the beach. The Nationals traded their star to the San Diego Padres, alongside first baseman Josh Bell. In return, the Nationals will receive shortstop CJ Abrams, first baseman/designated hitter Luke Volt, outfielders James Wood and Robert Hassell III, and pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Jarlin Susana.
Soto adds quite a bit of firepower to the Padres’ roster. He joins third baseman Manny Machado and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. as the team’s offensive stars. Though they’re behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, the Padres are currently in prime position for an NL Wild Card spot.
Soto still has two and a half years left on his current contract, so the Padres don’t even need to worry about a deal right now. They’ll focus on winning a championship — or multiple championships — by 2024. But after that, it could get a little dicey.
While turning down $440 million might sound crazy, Soto did it because he believes he can get even more money in a few years. He’s only 23 years old, and if he can score a deal that pays him more in total salary AND average annual value, it’ll be a smart move on his part.
For the Padres, paying to extend Soto means the team will have a ton of money tied up in three players. They signed Machado to a ten-year, $300 million in 2019. And last year, Tatis signed a 14-year, $340 million contract.
Add Soto to the mix and the total for those three players will be well over $1 billion. And sure, that’s easier to stomach over the course of a decade, but the Padres would still be paying more than $100 million every year to three players for the foreseeable future.
Of course, if Soto delivers a championship, he’ll be well worth the investment. The possibility of keeping multiple franchise players together — plus a strong pitching staff — for years to come could be enticing enough for the Padres to pull the trigger.
Luckily, they don’t have to think about that quite yet. Instead, they can celebrate pulling off one of the most successful trades in MLB history.