It doesn’t appear as though the Nationals have had any in-depth talks with Josh Bell about a long-term contract, as president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo told The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty (Twitter links) that Juan Soto is still the top focus for an extension. There have been more “discussions” with Soto, but until that situation is settled, any negotiations with Bell will seemingly have to wait.
Bell avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $10MM salary for 2022, his final season of arb eligibility. Since most players prefer to not talk contract during the season, the Nats might be left with a pretty limited window of time to work out a new deal with Bell, possibly just from the end of Washington’s season to the official start date of free agency. Furthermore, Bell is represented by the Boras Corporation, and it is rare to see Scott Boras clients agree to extensions so close to a trip to the open market.
Since Soto is under team control through 2024, Bell is technically the more pressing concern, and yet it is easy to understand why the Nationals are prioritizing a new Soto deal. It’s fair to guess that a Soto extension would be the single largest contract in baseball history, as Soto (also a Boras client) has already turned down a 13-year, $350MM offer from the Nats earlier this winter. Soto is still only 23 years old and already has a phenomenal track record of success, so it isn’t hard to imagine Boras wanting to set new contractual benchmarks for both total value and average annual value.
Bell, meanwhile, had a strong performance in his own right during his first season in D.C. The first baseman was one of many Nationals players sidelined by a COVID-19 outbreak in April, but after a slow start, Bell caught fire over the last four months and finished with 27 home runs and a .261/.347/.476 slash line over 568 plate appearances.
Should Bell repeat this performance in 2022, it’ll line him up for a nice multi-year pact in free agency. Bell turns 30 in August and he is somewhat limited as a primary first baseman, though he did line up in both corner outfield positions on occasion last season. With the universal DH now in place, Boras can now fully market Bell to National League teams that might have previously been unsure about his fielding future — as well, defensive metrics indicated that Bell’s 2021 glovework was the best of his career.
Whether Bell’s future is in Washington or not remains to be seen, depending on the state of the Nats’ minor rebuild. There is obvious benefit to retaining Soto as the face of the franchise, but locking Bell up to an extension or re-signing him in free agency would be a clear sign that the Nationals plan to contend again sooner rather than later. Such a move would also undoubtedly factor into Soto’s decision process, as Soto has been clear that he wants to play for a winning team. Plus, if an extension with Soto doesn’t become a reality, the Nats might adopt a win-now approach to capitalize on Soto’s prime years while they still have him.
Considering that D.C. has topped the $200MM payroll mark as recently as 2019, the team does have the resources to extend both Soto and Bell. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin take up an outsized chunk of future payroll, but they are also the only Nationals players guaranteed money beyond the 2022 season.
Soto will break the bank!
I would keep the focus solely on Soto, and either trade Bell or let him walk at the end of the year. Nats Park turned the Club Level into a 2012-2019/World Series Museum, so I’m worried that they’re going to milk to 2019 Title for a few years. If they want to extend Soto, they need to put together a good team fast, and based off the first 3 games of the season, they’re going to struggle winning even 55 games this year.
Extending Soto has NOTHING to do with putting together a good team; it’s about the money. If the Nats make a record-shattering offer, Soto will sign even if the team is poised to 110+ games per year.
I don’t think there’s much to talk about here. Soto turned down a very large offer, so it appears he intends to wait out the market. Bell isn’t really the type of player a rebuilding team makes a priority. If anything I would be hoping Bell continues to hit so I could trade him at the deadline.
This team is not going to do much as long as they depend on Kieboom and Robles. I don’t call that a very large offer for the type of player he is. Ten years for 350 is a large offer. Thirteen years for 450 is a very large offer. I also think they will have trouble winning more than sixty games. I don’t see them contending by 2024 so they look to trade him now.. Peraza, Wells, Gil and someone else may do it for the Yankees.
350 million is a very large offer. Ask Carlos Correa. There are only a handful of teams willing to commit that kind of money no matter who the player is. Most of those long term contracts have ended up being problematic for the teams that handed them out. I think teams are going to become increasingly reluctant to hand them out going forward.
Juan Soto is more than four years younger than Carlos Correa. So there is that. There is also the fact that Correa signed a contract for 105 million. He didn’t sign a 350 million contract. If he had, it probably would have been for ten years. Soto’s contract offer was for 13 years. You can’t say 350 million is a very large offer without considering the number of years.
So just for fun, let’s say Soto became a free agent at the end of the season. Which teams would give him a larger offer than the Nats as their rosters are currently constructed?
Yankees and Red Sox are two of at least five or six teams that would make better offers if he were a free agent after this season.
I think Washington will be in on him, though. Ted Lerner is among the wealthiest owners in the game. You are right, however, Red Sox, Yankees for sure, and Dodgers, Mets-maybe Angels or Phillies(stupid money).
Don’t forget that it’s not just the money. He wants to go to a team that has a chance of contending just about every year of his contract.
Washington, have done what’s looking to be a disastrous extension with Strasburg, could well be gunshy about long term guaranteed deals.
With the team nowhere close to contending — and the Phillies, Braves and Mets brimming with talent — would anyone be surprised if Soto is dealt in a deal resembling what Boston staged for Betts and Oakland with Olsen.
I think the answer depends on what kind of franchise they see themselves as. If they see themselves as a large market, large revenue, large payroll type, then they spend whatever it takes to keep Soto. If they see themselves as a mid market team with a budget then, yes, they might trade him.
I will never understand the Strasburg extension. I don’t know who makes the decisions there. If Mike Rizzo does, he has made a lot of bad ones. The worst mistakes the last ten years have been hiring such crappy managers. Davey, Matt and Johnnie all sucked. Actually, Matt was the best of those three. Davey mishandled the Strasburg situation when he was on an innings limit. He also brought Drew Storen in a lopsided playoff game when he would probably be needed the next two games. Johnnie relied on Sammy Solis too much against the Cubs in the playoffs.
The Lerners make big deal decisions, especially if the agent is Scott Boras. Boras made a point of cultivating Ted Lerner from the beginning and he personally negotiated with him for their major deals.
Soto is a tremendous player and is going to get huge money. Stating the obvious there. The real question there is if they sign him are they committed to paying what it would cost to build a team good enough to win with such a huge contract on the books.
They’ll eventually sign Soto even if they let him test the market first. Just like they did with Boras client Strasburg (whether that was a good idea or not).
The Nationals will be using the next couple of seasons to find out which if any of their other pieces they can build around. Cupboard was basically emptied to build up to the 2019 team.
They’ll need some other position players to eventually develop. Ruiz looks promising but they need at least a couple more. And they’ll need some of their pitching prospects to pan out. Can fill in the holes in the FA and trade markets but they don’t even know where their needs are yet.
The conventional wisdom is that Bell will most likely be flipped by the trade deadline for prospects. It is unlikely the Nats will seek to extend him.