The Lerner family simply cannot sell the Washington Nationals soon enough.
In what will likely/hopefully be their final act, the Lerners gutted the franchise by trading away right fielder Juan Soto. This move was telegraphed as soon as ownership offered the superstar a 15-year, $440-million extension … they absolutely knew he wouldn’t accept.
On the surface, it indeed represented the largest contract in baseball history (which is what the Lerners hopes casual sports fans focus on). This public relations move/contract offer represented the 20th highest average annual value ($29.3 million) in the sport. Think about that for a moment. Soto, at 23, is widely considered a top three player in the game. So why would he sign away the next decade and a half for less money per season than 18 or so players who aren’t at his level?
He wouldn’t and he didn’t, which is how another supposed franchise building block got away. Soto joins Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer as players of consequence who were shown the door in Washington and now, a team that won the World Series in 2019 finds itself with the worst record in the majors. And likely for years to come.
Fate brought Soto and his new ballclub, the San Diego Padres, just 10 days after he was dealt away and the Nats have officially reached a point where the most enticing reason to go to the ballpark these days is to see opposing players. Padres starter Blake Snell barely broke a sweat, giving up just three hits while striking out 10 over six shutout innings in the series finale. Paolo Espino took the loss for Washington, after allowing seven hits and four runs in five-and-two-thirds innings.
During the series, Soto went 4-for-12 with four walks, two runs and two RBIs as San Diego took two of three games. Josh Bell, who was included in the Soto deal, went 0 for 13 with three walks in the series. But, unlike the Nationals, better days are ahead for Bell and friends who still have plenty to play for this season.