By now, even the casual baseball fan has heard of Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Ronald Acuna Jr. All three are flashy, young players, hailing from Venezuela (Acuna Jr.) and the Dominican Republic (Soto and Tatis Jr.), who have become the face of their respective clubs. Soto and Acuna Jr. both debuted for the Nationals and Braves respectively in 2018, with Tatis Jr. close behind, making his debut with the Padres in 2019. The three have already started to rack up the accolades, combining for a World Series title, a Rookie of the Year award, four Silver Sluggers, a batting title, three Second Team All MLB appearances, and two First Team All MLB appearances. Until they retire, the three will be closely tied together, due to their age and transcendent talent.
Last night it was reported by FanSided’s own Robert Murray that Tatis Jr. and the Padres had reached an agreement on a 14-year extension worth $340 million.
With only two years of experience under his belt, Tatis Jr. is already the owner of the third-highest contract in baseball history. Tatis Jr. is the second of the trio to receive an extension, with Acuna signing for an extremely team-friendly deal in 2019. It was an eight-year extension worth $100 million.
With two of the league’s young superstars taken care of, Juan Soto is on the clock. After losing Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon to free agency in the past, Washington will be hard-pressed to not make the same mistake with Soto. The 22-year-old, just won the batting title, hitting .351, with 13 homers, and 37 RBIs, while posting an absurd slash line of.490/.695/1.185. Thanks to a positive COVID test that made him miss the beginning of the season, Soto was ineligible to be a finalist for NL MVP, instead, he finished fifth.
While Acuna Jr. and Tatis Jr. both signed team-friendly extensions, don’t expect Soto to follow suit. Soto is a Scott Boras client, who is notorious for pushing his clients to test the free-agent market. Stephen Strasburg is an exception, who signed an extension while still under contract with the Nats during the 2016 season.
At first glance, $340 million seems like a hefty chunk of change, but when broken down, Tatis Jr. will be earning an AAV of $24 million a year. A steal for a player of his caliber. Tatis Jr. will have to stay healthy to make the contract worth it for San Diego because after all, Tatis’s rookie season ended early due to a back injury. Acuna’s extension can be seen as criminal, with the superstar making a meager $15 million next year and $17 million a year from 2022 till the end of his contract.
Under Boras, Soto will be looking for top dollar and it is hard to predict what the market will be like in 2025, the year Soto is scheduled to be a free agent. In three seasons, Soto has a bWAR of 9.7 and a wRC+ of 152. If he continues this trajectory, it would be unsurprisingly if he shatters the AAV record down the road. Washington has plenty of money coming off the books after 2021, but will need to also work out extensions with Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Neither will command top dollar, but are instrumental to Washington’s title chances. Crucial players, but this is money Washington won’t have to throw at Soto.
Every year Washington waits to extend Soto, the phenom has the opportunity to drive his price tag up. Now is the time and Mike Rizzo knows that. Hopefully, he can accomplish an extension and fast.