Baseball has an issue and it really is not talked about nearly as much as it should be. The Washington Nationals have been a victim of this issue a lot recently, but they are certainly not the only victim.
The real problem in baseball is not the length of the game or the DH. The real problem is stars do not stay with their first team anymore. This is not something that only happens to the Washington Nationals. Gone are the days of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken sticking with a fanbase and a city for their entire career. Now stars are leaving at an alarming rate for one reason or another and Juan Soto could be next.
Think about it… just in the last decade stars like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Zach Grienke, Robinson Cano, Max Scherzer, David Price, Eric Hosmer, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Garrett Cole, and many others have left their teams via trade or free agency. That trend will certainly continue this offseason as well. Of the top 25 biggest contracts in baseball, only 7 of the players are with their original team, and of those 7 players like DeGrom and Altuve will certainly be due another contract that could take them elsewhere.
There are two real issues when it comes to keeping stars at home. The first is the fact that teams are playing it much smarter than they used to. Teams are no longer as willing to pass out large deals based on past performance. Teams are accepting the first 6 years of a player where they get the first three at the league minimum and the following three are decided based on arbitration. These are normally that players’ early 20s and where they are likely to produce the most value. Then teams will let that player go instead of risking potentially overpaying for their down years once age inevitably plays a factor.
The other issue is the list of things that must go right to keep a player in the same spot for the length of a career. Players must like the city, players likely want to play for a winner so the team must prove they can do that, the team must want the player, the owners must be willing to pay the money, the agent must think it is the best money they can get and I am sure I am missing something. A lot must go right for one thing to happen.
A lot of Nationals fans seem to think stars leaving is a Nationals only issue. In reality, the Nationals just had a lot of stars and stars leave. Look at the Cubs they just lost their collection of stars, the Astros are about to lose a couple more stars this offseason, and Altuve and Bregman will certainly test free agency at least one more time. Looking at the 2021 rosters across baseball the Nationals had as many lifelong players as any other team with Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman. Those two players certainly show why keeping a player forever comes with risk.
We have had to deal with years of Boras making a three-ring circus out of players impending free agency. Don’t worry there will certainly be some weird metaphors for Juan Soto throughout these years. Scott Boras might be very annoying to some but he is very good at his job. For example, Scott Boras would have never allowed Ozzie Albies and to a lesser extent Ronald Acuna to get robbed. He has his quirks but he is certainly good for the players he represents.
The fact of the matter is contract negotiations don’t follow a script that goes owners offer large deal and player automatically agrees. When it comes to Juan Soto this will not come down to the amount of money the Lerners are willing to dish out, Juan Soto loving DC or some other city, the Nationals being title contenders, or Boras being Boras. It will be a combination of all of that as well as some other factors.
Juan Soto is a generational talent and the Nationals will certainly make some moves to try and keep him in DC forever, but if the day comes and he does leave that is not the end of baseball in the District. If Juan decides to join the long line of stars to leave their first-team baseball will still go on, but of course, Nationals fans will have their eyes and ears glued to whatever is said about this situation for the next three years.