The Nationals hold 2023 club options on general manager Mike Rizzo and skipper Dave Martinez, as each is currently in the final guaranteed year of their contracts. Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes that Washington is expected to exercise their option on Rizzo, who has been running baseball operations in the nation’s capital since midway through the 2009 season. Nightengale adds that the team has until the All-Star Break to decide whether to pick up Martinez’s option, which he reports is valued at $4MM. Jon Heyman of the New York Post, meanwhile, writes that Martinez’s option is valued at $3.5MM.
The Nats were excellent for a good portion of the last decade, making the playoffs five times between 2012-19 and claiming a World Series title during their final postseason run. That unsurprisingly seems to have bought Rizzo more time at the helm, even as the club has sputtered over the past couple seasons. After underperforming in 2020 and during the first half of last year, Washington kicked off a deadline sell-off. The Nationals shipped off a host of impending free agents and somewhat surprisingly pulled the trigger on a Trea Turner deal even though the star shortstop was controllable through the end of the 2022 season.
Parting with Turner signaled the Nationals were going to embrace a multi-year reboot. There was no indication that encompassed a possible trade of Juan Soto, however, and the superstar outfielder isn’t likely to find himself on the move this summer either. The Nationals’ dreadful start (last place in the NL East at 14-28) will no doubt lead rival teams to inquire about Soto’s availability, but a blockbuster trade of the 23-year-old feels like little more than a pipe dream right now.
Both Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic and Jon Heyman of the New York Post pushed back against the possibility of a Soto trade last week. Nightengale, meanwhile, writes that the organization is unlikely to seriously entertain the possibility until after the 2023 season — if at all. Soto reportedly rejected a 13-year, $350MM extension offer over the offseason, expressing a desire at the time to proceed year-by-year via arbitration. He remains controllable through 2024, however, and trading Soto this year would signify a rebuild of greater scope than the Nationals seem to want to entertain.
It stands to reason that Washington will be aggressive next offseason in acquiring upgrades to build a new core around Soto. They’ve little chance of competing in 2022, so they still seem likely to move impending free agents over the coming months. First baseman Josh Bell would probably be their most in-demand rental, although players like Nelson Cruz (if he rights the ship offensively) and César Hernández could hold some appeal as well.
Starting pitcher Joe Ross is another impending free agent who could be a viable midseason trade candidate, but he’ll first need to establish health. The right-hander was diagnosed with a partial tear of the UCL in his throwing elbow last summer, an injury that ended his season prematurely even as he avoided Tommy John surgery. He did undergo a less significant procedure during Spring Training, as doctors removed a bone spur from his elbow in March.
Ross opened the season on the 60-day injured list and isn’t eligible to return to the majors until the first week of June, but he’s moving closer to his season debut. The club informed reporters (including Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post) that Ross is set to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg this week. Pitchers can spend up to thirty days in the minors on rehab, so the 29-year-old should be back in the big league rotation within a month, barring a setback.
That’s likewise true of Stephen Strasburg, who has been on the 10-day IL all year as he recovers from last July’s thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. The three-time All-Star is beginning a rehab stint with Low-A Fredericksburg on Tuesday (via Dougherty), suggesting he’s also trending towards a return within the next few weeks. Strasburg has made just seven starts since the beginning of the 2020 campaign due to various injuries.
With four-plus years remaining on the $245MM contract he signed over the 2019-20 offseason, Strasburg isn’t likely to be a realistic trade candidate anytime soon. Getting him back on track and finding anything resembling his pre-2020 form would give the Nationals a much-needed rotation anchor in their efforts to return to contention after this season, however. Washington’s starters have been a big culprit for their dismal start; only the Reds have a worse rotation ERA than the Nats’ 5.58 mark. Erick Fedde and Josiah Gray are the lone Nationals’ starters with an ERA south of 5.00, and both of them have allowed more than four earned runs per nine innings.
Still can’t believe that Strasberg deal. It really does seem that these billionaire owners are clueless when it comes to players.
When that contract was signed it was a very team friendly contract
7 years at $35M/yr. was never a team friendly extension. It was a clear overpay for a guy with a checkered health history.
I wouldn’t say it was team friendly, but everyone forgets that when he signed the contract he was coming off a World Series MVP and actually wanted to stay in Washington. We all knew it was an overpay that probably wouldn’t age well, but no one could expect that he would miss essentially the first two years of the deal.
Never sign free pitchers to 7 year deals. For every mad max success story there’s 20-25 albatross contracts
If they had not signed him? Everyone would have criticized the front office–context! As mentioned, he was just mvp of a world series!!!
Fans, lol. Complain no matter what, with the benefit of hindsight.
Going on three years. He may pitch five or ten innings and get hurt again. Many players have great years in the final contract year, get a big contract and then suck. They don’t have any incentive to be good. The contracts they sign are guaranteed.
Fans should have understood his best days were behind him. He was a free agent but there is a saying that it is better to trade a player one year too soon than one year too late.
“They don’t have any incentive to be good.”
You can’t possibly believe this is true.
I should have said they don’t have any financial incentive to be good unless they have bonuses in their contracts. Their base salaries are the same whether they suck or not. Of course they don’t want to get booed but many players are laughing their way to their respective banks. With baseball free agency, many players have already played their best baseball before they hit free agency because they hit free agency at 30 or older.
@believe I think you’re incorrect about your interpretation of a pro athlete’s psyche. They did not get to becoming the best of the best with a complacent mentality. There are of course financial rewards even after scoring a big contract – endorsement deals and playoffs shares. Obviously, there are a few exceptions but that is not the norm as you make it to be.
If GMs did everything the fans wanted they’d be out of a job pretty quickly. Know the best way to make fans happy? Win games. The Strasbourg contract was a head scratcher at the time due to his injury history, and looks even worse now. Should have let him walk and used the money to build a better team.
no way in heck
What have you been smoking? Almost a quarter billion for an injury prone 31 year old pitcher with TJ and other injuries is a disgrace.
FredMcGriff for the HOF
Josh Bell will most definitely be on the move at the trade deadline unless his offense craters between now and then.
It seems to me that they could have used that money to extend Bryce Harper. I know extending Strasburg was one year after Harper left. I was shocked by that contract. They should have let him walk. Would any other team have given him so much money? I highly doubt it. Assuming Luis Garcia is their second baseman, they will need a first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, leftfielder, centerfielder, at least three starting pitchers and three relievers. I know Brady House may be up by 2024 but he may struggle his first season. Cade Cavalli is walking many batters at AAA and Jackson Rutledge is nowhere near AAA and is getting bombed. Cole Henry seems to be promising. Getting ten players in or out of the system by 2024 is a very tall order. I simply don’t think this team knows what it is doing. Three crappy managers were hired before Martinez. They will get a lot more for Soto if they trade him this off season and not next off season. 350 million is a good offer for ten years but is very low for 13 years. Rizzo needs to go but apparently is staying. No surprise there.
I wouldn’t classify Dusty Baker or Davey Johnson as crappy managers.
Davey Johnson had Drew Storen come in a game they were losing by eight runs. Games four and five were the next two days. Did he not know this or did he think those games would be blowouts also? No surprise he couldn’t get the third out against the Cardinals. He was exhausted from pitching three consecutive days. People don’t realize Davey Johnson ruined Dwight Gooden’s career by making him pitch so many innings. Johnnie had a lousy record in October. I don’t know what they were doing hiring him. They hired Bud Black but offered one year. He walked away then they offered two years to their second choice Johnnie. It’s nonsensical.
Boras definitely weaved his magic web and caught Mr Lerner smack in the middle with the Strausberg contract. That contract will also lessen the value of the team regarding a potential sale. 4 Million Dollars for Martinez to manage a rebuild ain’t going to happen. The front office can get someone to sit and watch the game, read a scripted lineup and bullpen usage chart for way less money.
Idk, you may be correct, but 4M seems like the going rate for a WS-winning skipper. Look at Joe Maddon, for ex. Not a very good tactition; his best attributes are his ability to connect and his innovative mind. That said, I like Martinez, who learned at the feet of Madden. I would definitely consider him for a club I was running (assuming they were in contending mode).
The best option for Martínez at this point may to land a job with an established team or one late in the rebuild stages. He could probably try his hand in PHI where Girardi is running out of time.
Girardi has never been a good manager. Very overrated.
Many have said Dave Martinez was the “brains” Joe Maddon in Chicago. Not saying David Ross is in any danger of losing his job but i wonder if the Cubs would make the change if Martinez was available. The Reds come to mind as a possibility as well as i don’t see David Bell lasting through this season let alone coming back next season.
Unfortunately i don’t think any manager can fix the Phillies lack of pitching/defense
Would love to see the Red Sox make a push to acquire Soto. Their OF has been trash and gonna be under 100Mil next season so could trade and sign to big extension and Soto would be one of the few who would be worth the money seemingly. They’re getting hot and in a lineup with Devers, Boggy, JD, and Story would be a great offense plus Bogaerts probably leaving after his opt out would sting a lot less and could retool next offseason to get more SP with as much money coming off the books.
I don’t even know what it would take the Nats to consider such a trade. There is absolutely no precedent for a trade of his caliber with the control he has. My guess for the Red Sox it would be Mayer, Casas, Bello, Yorke and probably a couple of others.
It would definitely have to be a big pool of prospects but Soto is young enough and a once in a lifetime player that it could be justified, especially since they lost Betts. Plus Soto already turned down Washington’s 13yr/350mil extension they may feel they should move him before he gets injured or they get less for him the longer they hold onto him. Plus they have 60mil tied up in Corbin and Strasburg for next 3 years and have no other real talent to put around Soto. so seems now would be as good a time as any. If they moved Devers to 1B losing Casas wouldn’t hurt as bad. I would say Mayer, Casas, Bello would be a good starting point and see if you can keep Yorke and Downs and include more lower level prospects but probably would need to include 1 of those 2 as well yes.
If a team is going to pay that high of a price for a player, they had better know that they will be able to sign him to an extension first. I know he has control remaining but for thr cost it would take he would need to be around for at least another 5 years or more. Personally, I wouldn’t do it. He’s a great hitter, don’t get me wrong. But he adds nothing on defense or on the basepaths.
Think Casas will be kept. Dalbek is lousy and Martinez is in his last year.
They won’t give up Mayer for two years of Soto. Casas is doubtful also given the struggles of Dalbek.
Once again I’m just saying what it would take to get the Nats interested I’m not saying I would do it if I’m Bloom but if you really wanted Soto no one is untouchable. The Red Sox would have to give up the guys I said in the above comment to get the Nats attention not saying they should.
If Soto is made available, Boston would have tough competition to land him. There’s definitely teams that can put together a better trade package than Boston’s if they wanted too, IMO.
You are forgetting one thing and that is the team willing to give up the guys mentioned above. Just because they have the prospects to pull it off doesn’t mean that they will. My guess is the Dodgers as the only realistic team that would part with the necessary prospects. It is a big risk to trade the meat of your prospects for one guy that’s why I think it won’t happen until he has less control and therefore less valuable. I was just giving a realistic list of prospects from the minor league organization that I know best it would take to land him. It would take an absolute haul to get him.
Soto isn’t going to be traded. I know a lot of fans in a lot of other cities are trying to put together a package of crummy prospects to trade in their minds. Don’t bother.
@onenatsfan. Quite agree. Fans of other teams (FOOT) are dreaming, way underestimating what it would take. My guess is one established star with a lower ceiling than Soto, plus 2 or 3 established or near-MLB-ready players who play well enough to stick but don’t have star potential. A couple of lesser prospects may be needed to sweeten even that package.
If fans of the team trading for Soto aren’t wondering whether they overpaid for the next Ted Williams, then it almost certainly won’t be enough for the Nats. Your team’s spare parts will not be a factor. Nor will “we’d take Corbin off your hands” interest the Nats into accepting a lesser package.
Finally, the $350 million offer is widely misunderstood. The Nats did not expect the offer to be accepted–it was a way to start negotiations. You don’t open with your top dollar offer. If Boras/Soto had come back and said “put 12/480 on the table, then we can talk opt-outs, no trade clauses, etc…..then Soto would alread be a Nat for life.
We had a similar situation here with Mookie. A very good player, well liked but wanted far too much $$$!! He is NOT worth the deal he received and the Dodgers will be regretting it after year six.
Overpay for five years is the way to go (see Chris Sale). If they turn it down don’t let the door hit you in the butt.
Calling Soto the next Ted Williams is insane and an insult to the best pure hitter ever.
Finally, who cares what fans think. NEVER let the inmates rum the asylum.
Try getting that much for one year of Soto. This is why he should be traded with no less than two years left on his contract.
I agree–proposed that package on the assumption there would be at least 2 years left. Also, I am not in favor of a trade at this point.
I agree not trading Soto right now is the right move. First of all, many teams will not want to come up with a package the Nationals want. Also, many players do very well in AA and then have a great deal of difficulty in AAA. Waiting a few months will give time to prospects to see if they do well in AAA. Of course, success at AAA doesn’t guarantee success at the major league level. Look at Carter Kieboom. But it does give a team a better understanding of what prospects can do.
Seems very coincidental that Washington lowers payroll significantly by breaking apart the team via trades and then comes out with the thought of selling the team. This whole disaster is DC should be pointed at ownership and possibly Rizzo. Martinez has done a great job with the hands he has been dealt.
Except for Trea Turner, all of the traded players were on expiring contracts and would not have been on this year’s payroll. In return, the team received needed 12 players, at least four of whom are on the current roster.
Rather, the lower payroll is connected to the decision not to take on any expensive free agents this winter (except Cruz’). The test wasn’t this past winter anyway, but whether they spend next winter.
At the moment, the problem isn’t that they are losing. Rather, as a WP columnist observed, ithey are unwatchable. The errors, attrocious base-running, mental errors, etc. seem most appropriately laid at the feet of Martinez and the coaching staff.
I’m hoping the Rangers will try to get Ross if the price is right.