And while Rizzo carefully avoided offering any such prognostication, he did make clear that one line of Soto trade speculation — that the Nationals might use a Soto deal to try to offload big contracts, such as pitcher Patrick Corbin’s deal, was not part of the organization’s planes.
“We’ve never contacted a team and talked about Juan Soto and attaching any contract to any player. We’re not going to dilute a return for any player by adding a bad contract. That’s not where we’re at in our organization at this time,” Rizzo said. “We want to get the most for each and every trade that we do. So we’re certainly not going to tack on anyone’s contract to anybody’s deal including Juan Soto or Josh Bell or anybody’s.”
Why Patrick Corbin’s name comes up in Juan Soto trade speculation
If the Nationals hold that line, that means interested parties will need to package numerous top prospects or big league-ready youngsters to pull Soto from Washington, that they won’t be able to mitigate the prospect loss by simply handing over money. Very few teams, if any, have enough of a surplus of prospects and young big leaguers to make a deal like that. And those that do may not feel the need to do so at this moment, particularly if a new ownership group makes Soto available again this winter.
“We’re in conversations with Juan Soto with several teams that I think have real interest in him,” said Rizzo, who declined to handicap the odds of the Nationals trading the star outfielder.
“I will say this: We’re going to have to get the deal that we want that makes the most sense that gets us an opportunity to become a championship organization than not trading him,” Rizzo said. “That’s it in a nutshell.”
That Soto became the center of attention for this year’s trade deadline is in large part the result of a now-infamous leak: A week and a half ago, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported that Soto had declined what would have been the most guaranteed money in league history, $440 million over 15 years, and that the Nationals would therefore have to consider trading him.
Speculation flew about the source of the leak, since Soto was visibly upset after the information became public. Had the Nationals leaked the details so as to signal that Soto was available and make clear they had really, seriously tried to sign him?
“Leaks are so difficult. In this age of social media, who knows where some of these things come from. All I can tell you is unequivocally did not come from me for sure, 100 percent for sure, or from our front office. That much I know for sure,” Rizzo said. “We had this information three weeks before it leaked out. We had ample time to leak it out if we wanted to leak it out. Leaks never ever help the situation. It was disappointing to me.”
Juan Soto was surprised the Nats might trade him. Trea Turner knows the feeling.
Rizzo, who in June told the Junkies that the Nationals wouldn’t be trading Soto, went on to add that the now-public information about the negotiations caused problems for Washington in the aftermath.
“It did not help us in anything we were trying to do. It didn’t help us in keeping a good relationship with Juan, and it didn’t help us in any kind of leverage at the trade deadline,” Rizzo said. “It really didn’t help us. It hurt us that the details got out.”
The source remains unclear. The Post confirmed the details of the discussions, and Soto has said he was disappointed that they came out, suggesting he wouldn’t have directed anyone in his camp to make them public. Ahead of the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, he answered questions about his future with his agent, Scott Boras, by his side, his Home Run Derby title overshadowed by the notion that the Nationals might be considering a nearly unprecedented deal for him. He suggested he didn’t know what to trust in the organization, since the situation had changed so dramatically.
“With his agent’s knowledge, we told him, when the deal was turned down, we said ‘We’re going to have to explore all our options.’ And that’s all we’ve ever said,” Rizzo said. “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t explore all the options that now present us. We’ve got a pretty good option: We’ve got a talented Juan Soto for two and a half more seasons. That’s option A, that’s a good one. But we also have to think about options B and C.”
“My job is to make this organization a consumer winner again, like we did from 2012 to 2019, being a consistent winner,” Rizzo added. “I have to figure out ways as the caretaker of this franchise to make us a championship organization for a long time to come.”