Zimmerman gets why Soto declined Nats’ reported offer

Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto

As much money as $350 million is, Juan Soto is already on track to make much, much more.

The Nationals reportedly offered their young phenom a 13-year extension for that amount prior to the lockout. ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas reported that the deal would’ve bought out Soto’s three remaining years of arbitration with no money deferred beyond the length of the deal. However, Soto declined with the intention of taking things year by year while the Nationals rebuild their roster.

Ryan Zimmerman, who announced last week he would be retiring from baseball after 17 years with the Nationals, has seen firsthand what Soto brings to Washington both on and off the field. He told 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday he understood why Soto said no to $350 million.

“Fans are like, ‘Well how can you turn that down?’ You have to dive into the system to see what he’s turning down and what he basically has coming to him,” Zimmerman said. “The arbitration system is almost better than being a free agent right now and he’s gonna get four years of that…he’s gonna go from $8 [million] up to probably $12 or $13 or even more and then probably up to $20 and then up to $25 or $30…he’s guaranteed already basically $60-75 million.”


Soto qualified for arbitration in 2021 as a “Super Two” player, earning $8.5 million from the Nationals with a salary not far off from Cody Bellinger’s $11 million record for the highest earnings by a player in his first year of arbitration. As Zimmerman illustrated, he’ll automatically earn raises each season with the potential to set arbitration records if he continues to play at an elite level.

If the Nationals do sign Soto to an extension this offseason, it helps to look at any prospective contract as two separate deals: one that covers the rest of arbitration and another that buys out his free agent years. So using the most conservative of Zimmerman’s estimates, the offers Soto received were a three-year, $60 million deal and a 10-year, $290 million deal. Should Soto hit free agency at 26 years old after the 2024 season, any team offering $290 million likely won’t stand much of a chance in the bidding war.

Washington still has three years of team control left to convince Soto to stay. The 23-year-old’s agent Scott Boras said earlier this offseason that Soto wants to see the Nationals show they’re committed to being a competitive franchise before he signs anything. Zimmerman wouldn’t go as far to say the Nationals need to extend Soto, but the pressure to do so only grew when they traded shortstop Trea Turner at the deadline last season.

“I don’t want to say they have to sign him but once you trade Trea [Turner] — basically Trea and Juan were the two young guys that they knew those were gonna come up at some point,” Zimmerman said. “So that’s just the way the landscape of professional sports and baseball is and if you have a top-five player in the league, they’re gonna make somewhere between $30 and $40 million a year…it’s the going rate and that’s what it takes so we’ll see.”