The math could work for the #Nats to extend Trea and Soto!

Photo courtesy of Andrew Lang for TalkNats

You never want to look back and do the coulda, shoulda, woulda. The Washington Nationals can do it. There just has to be a shift away from the $100 million starting rotations if the Nats have a real chance to retain Trea Turner and Juan Soto for the rest of this decade and beyond for the 22 year old, Soto.

Everything in player payroll management is about balance. In 2012, the Nats two highest paid players were position players with Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. The team was paying Stephen Strasburg $3 million that year, and Jordan Zimmermann was at $2.3 million. Both were home grown pitchers along with Ross Detwiler, and the Nats were peaking with playoff success at the time.

After this season, the Nationals have the following commitments:

  1. Stephen Strasburg, $35 million a year, signed through 2026
  2. Patrick Corbin, $23.33 million a year, signed through 2024
  3. Juan Soto, Arbitration eligible, team-control through 2024
  4. Trea Turner, Arbitration eligible, team-control through 2022
  5. Victor Robles, salary TBD,  team-control through 2024
  6. Josh Bell, Arbitration eligible, team-control through 2022
  7. Joe Ross, Arbitration eligible, team-control through 2022
  8. Will Harris, $8 million, signed through 2022

The rest of the players on the Nats roster are for team control that extend beyond 2026 with some minor exceptions. Of note, and as most fans know, this is the final year of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year deal. The Nats will shed over $75 million in payroll in the off-season as projected now. If the team can develop some starting pitching within the system, that would create the savings to sign Turner and Soto long-term.

My proposal is to pay Soto more than the Mike Trout deal ($426.5 million). Offer Juan a deal of $427 million guaranteed that includes a player $23 million option after 14 years. So essentially a 15 year deal at $30 million per year. Call it a $450 million deal and then add three consecutive team options at $17 million a year to get the number conceivably over $500 million.

For Trea, go for a 9-year deal that will pay him $200 million. You could certainly add to that some additional team options to make it larger.  If both Soto and Turner took those deals, that would bring the Nats payroll next year to $163 million AAV, and roughly $45 million to spend to fill the holes and leave a small buffer below the projected CBT.

“We’ve discussed internally with ownership about it,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We’re in the midst of making decisions on what a timeframe would look like. … We certainly have made, and will make a long-term extension offer to both players some time in the near future.”

As Rizzo often says in negotiating deals, It takes two to tango.” Simply put, the player cannot be forced to take a deal. The Soto deal is extensive because you are buying out 3-years of arbitration. You are buying out Turner’s final arbitration season. That Turner deal would blow away the Jose Altuve deal (7/$163MM), and that Soto deal would crush the Fernando Tatis, Jr. deal of 14 years for $340 million.

The key for all of this to work is developing some top of the rotation pitchers. If Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli could be those players, the Nats can pull this off.

“We need those guys to prepare for being in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “We’ve never been afraid to push guys — young players to the big leagues. We rarely go by chronological age or those type of things. We just go by how can they impact the big league club. Those two guys [Rutledge and Cavalli] specifically, and about four or five other guys you’ve seen pitch during Spring Training, collectively, will impact the big leagues in the very near future.”

This is all possible in a “go for it” scenario. Again, shift the focus back to how that 2012 team was looking with young aces and key veteran position players in a core.

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