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

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto expressed irritation Saturday hours after a report that he turned down a record contract with the rebuilding club.

The Athletic, citing unnamed sources, reported that Soto rejected a contract offer of $440 million for 15 years staying with the Nationals would have been the most lucrative in baseball history. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $426.5 million contract in 2019.

The Nationals said last month they would not trade the 23-year-old Soto. But speculation about the Soto trade surely increased after this report that he turned down a long-term deal.

Soto is a two-time All-Star and finished second in NL MVP voting last season. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.

“It feels really bad to see things turn out like this because I’m a guy who, for my part, keeps everything quiet and tries to keep it for them and me,” Soto said before the Nationals played Atlanta. “They just make the decision and do what they have to do.”

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

Soto was a key part 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 in on-base percentage in 2020 and 2021 en route to Silver Slugger Awards both seasons.

He is hitting .249 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI this season and will play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Soto had reached base in a career-high 24 straight games before Saturday.

The last-place Nationals began the day with the worst record in the major leagues, 30-62, 27 games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets. Washington was 14 1/2 games behind the Miami Marlins in fourth place.

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

Soto is the highest-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 traded Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and others, the Nationals are 48-104.

“I like to win, so I want to win every year,” Soto said. “I don’t want to keep losing. I hate to lose. It is what it is. At the end of the day, we just have to go through that, because as I was told, we all have to go through those moments to win a championship. For me, I think I’m going through mine. I will stay positive and continue to see things forward.”

Martinez, Soto’s manager since he came to the majors as a 19-year-old in 2018, said he planned to tell Soto to keep 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 he just plays and has fun and don’t worry about what’s going to happen. I mean, at the end of the day, you will get what you deserve, we all know that. And for me, I hope that he is here.”

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