Report: Nationals’ Juan Soto turns down $440 million contract

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — Washington Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto expressed irritation hours after a report he turned down a record contract with the rebuilding club.

The Athletic, citing unidentified sources, reported Soto turned down a $440 million, 15-year contract offer to remain with the Nationals that would have been the most lucrative in baseball history. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $426.5 million deal in 2019.

The Nationals said last month that they would not trade the 23-year-old Soto. But speculation about Soto getting dealt was sure to swell after this report of him turning down a long-term deal.

Soto is a two-time All-Star who finished second in the NL MVP voting last season. He will not be a free agent until after the 2024 season.

“It feels really bad to see stuff going out like that because I’m a guy who, my side, keeps everything quiet and try to keep it to them and me,” Soto said before the Nationals played Atlanta. “They just make the decision and do what they need to do.”

Soto referred questions about his contract to his agent, Scott Boras.

Soto was a key piece of Washington’s championship team in 2019 and turned 21 during the World Series. He won the NL batting title in 2020, led the league on on-base percentage in 2020 and 2021 en route to Silver Slugger awards in both seasons.

He is hitting .249 with 19 homers and 42 RBIs this season and will play in the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Soto had reached base in a career-high 24 consecutive games.

The last-place Nationals began the day at a major league-worst 30-62, a whopping 27 games behind the NL East-leading Mets. Washington was 14 1/2 games in back of fourth-place Miami.

“He’s young,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I’m sure when things like that come out that are personal, it bothers people. I’m sure it bothers him a lot. But like I said, he’s got to understand that this is part of the game, right? We’ve all been through it at some point in time. But he’s got to go out there and remember why he’s here, and that’s to help us win games and I know he’ll do that.”

Soto is the most high-profile player left on a team that embarked on a rebuild last year. The Lerner family, which owns the Nationals, is also exploring the possibility of selling the team.

Since last year’s trade deadline, when Washington dealt Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and others, the Nationals are 48-104.

“I get the taste of winning, so I want to win every year,” Soto said. “I don’t want to keep losing. I hate losing. It is what it is. At the end of the day, we just have to go through it, because as they told me, we all have to go through those moments to win a championship. For me, I think I’m going through mine. I’m just going to keep positive and keep seeing things forward.”

Martinez, Soto’s manager since he reached the majors as a 19-year-old in 2018, said he planned to tell Soto to continue being himself.

“He tells me all the time that he loves the game of baseball and that’s what he plays for,” Martinez said. “Go out there and just play and have fun and don’t worry about what’s going to happen. I mean, at the end of the day, you’re going to get what you deserve, we all know that. And for me, I hope it’s here.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.