Nationals will not trade Juan Soto, GM says: ‘Every intention of building this team around’ star outfielder

To hear Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo tell it, All-Star outfielder Juan Soto isn’t going anywhere. Rizzo during a recent appearance on the Sports Junkies show on 106.7 FM The Fan in D.C. stated in plain terms that, despite rampant speculation to the contrary, the 23-year-old Soto will not be traded this summer.

“We are not trading Juan Soto. We’ve made it clear to his agent and to the player,” Rizzo said. “…We have every intention of building this team around Juan Soto. We’ve spoken to his agent many, many times — recently sat with him when he was in Washington D.C., made it clear to him that we are not interested in trading him, and I guess the rest of the world just doesn’t believe it. But that’s our position.”

While similar pledges from other MLB decision-makers have turned out to precede trades — and if you want to consider the “every intention” remark as a potential loophole, then you can — Rizzo certainly sounds emphatic. As Nats GM he also has an established history of resisting the urge to undertake a complete roster teardown. 

No, the last-place Nationals are not in a good spot right, as they’re on pace for 105 losses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a Soto trade is in play. As noted, he’s still just 23, and he figure to remain a frontline producer at the plate for years to come. As Rizzo suggests, that’s the kind of player you use as a foundation, not as a means to obtain a haul of prospects who almost certainly won’t turn out to be half as valuable as Soto. 

Speaking of Soto, the body of work is unassailable. Across parts of five MLB seasons, he boasts a slash line of .294/.426/.539 (158 OPS+) with 107 home runs and, remarkably for a hitter of his power faculties, more walks (415) than strikeouts (384). He hasn’t produced at a customary level in 2022 thus far. However, he’s still been excellent (141 OPS+), and his underlying indicators suggest he’s been the victim of bad luck at the plate. 

Soto isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season, which leaves plenty of time to work out an extension with the Nationals. Regardless of what his future is, whether it’s a mutual commitment to remain in Washington or departure via trade or free agency, Soto’s next contract will almost certainly be the largest in MLB history. If Rizzo’s to be taken at his word, then the Nats are willing to pay those going rates. 

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