Fernando Tatis Jr. just received a historic payday in the form of a 14-year, $340 million deal with the Padres, which the two sides agreed to on Wednesday night.
Does this mean a similar contract can be expected for another 22-year-old superstar in Washington?
Juan Soto is set to become arbitration eligible next season, and won’t be a free agent until 2025, but could the Nationals go a similar route as San Diego and lock up their young star before his free agency approaches?
For now, the two sides are early on in those discussions as spring training gets underway.
“We had some discussions with him on a long-term deal last spring training and they didn’t go very far and since the COVID season of 2020 we really haven’t re-engaged on that,” Nationals president and general manager Mike Rizzo said when speaking to reporters on Thursday. “But our plans are to make an effort like we’ve made efforts in the past to our really great young players to keep them in a Nationals uniform for a long, long time.”
Soto has blossomed into one of the league’s best offensive players, finishing fifth in the MVP voting last season and is a favorite to win the award in 2021. While Tatis has become a star in his own right with sparkling defense at shortstop to go along with his gaudy offensive numbers over the past two seasons, Soto has been arguably even better. Tatis cranked 17 home runs in the shortened 2020 season and posted a 155 OPS+, but Soto was even more productive, leading the league in batting average (.351), on base percentage (.490), slugging percentage (.695), and OPS+ (212). His last full season in 2019 saw him hit 34 home runs, drive in 110 and post a .949 OPS. His career OPS over 313 games is .972 compared to Tatis’ career mark of .956, though Tatis has played in 143 games so far.
With Soto eclipsing Bryce Harper’s early production in Washington, will the Nationals be able to keep their budding superstar long-term, and does Tatis’ new mega-deal set any kind of standard for potential discussions between the Nats and Soto?
“I don’t think it gives us any more clarity of what it will take for Juan Soto,” Rizzo said. “I think every deal is separate and independent. It’s all about players’ wants and needs and can both sides get together to fulfill those. We signed, developed and brought Juan to the big leagues in very, very short order at a very young age and we see him as hopefully a National for a long, long time.”
With Soto logging more major-league at-bats so far than Soto, with more offensive production at the same age, he will likely command a contract that at least lines up with Tatis’ $340 million.