When $440M Is “Not Enough”…

On Monday  night, Juan Soto won the Home Run Derby.  Soto is 23 years old and is by far the best player the Washington Nationals have on their roster.  The Nationals’ franchise is up for sale and having Soto under contract for a long time – – and therefore at a known cost – – would probably make the team more valuable to a new buyer.  So, according to reports, the Nats offered Soto:

  • $440M over 15 years.

Soto and his agent, Scott Boras have turned down that deal.  Normally, I would look at those numbers and wonder how anyone could turn down such a deal to spend the rest of his career playing baseball knowing that $440M was guaranteed to appear in one’s checking account over that time.  Not so in this case, that deal is a low-ball offer.

Doing some simple math, signing that contract would pay Juan Soto $29.33M per year over the life of the contract.  If he signed that deal today and it went into effect next season, that would make him about the tenth or fifteenth highest player in MLB on a per year basis in 2023.  So where would that put him on a similar scale in – say – 2030?  The Nationals did something interesting here; they put out an offer that sounds astronomical, and now that it has been rejected, the team can tell its fans that it tried to sign their star player, but he obviously wanted more than the sun, moon and stars.

My problem is that the Nationals have done this before.  They have signed players to big deals where the total value of the contract is paid out only after the term of the contract has expired – – sort of like the Bobby Bonilla deal with the Mets.  And they have made what look like splashy offers to other players that were turned down because of those “extended payment clauses”.  The Nats have done exceptionally well in acquiring talent in the past ten years or so; they have not done such a great job at retaining it:

  • Bryce Harper – – lost to free agency with the Nats getting nothing in return.
  • Anthony Rendon – – lost to free agency with the Nats getting nothing in return
  • Max Scherzer – – traded away for prospects
  • Trea Turner – – traded away for prospects
  • Juan Soto – – looking as if he will be lost to free agency with the Nats getting nothing in return.

So, the Nats are now ready to shop Soto at the trade deadline.  He has value to a team in contention for the World Series because he has not yet reached his arbitration year.  A team acquiring Soto today would have him on the roster – – and an unknown cost to be sure – – through the end of the 2024 season.  For a contending team, that would equal 3 shots at a World Series win.

Another sports milestone happened on Monday of this week.  NFL Training Camps opened when the rookies for the Bills and the Raiders reported to their training facilities in Rochester, NY and Henderson, NV respectively.  The NFL regular season will open on Thursday September 8 this year meaning there are less than 8 weeks until the NFL elbows its way onto center stage where it will remain for US sports fans until early February 2023.  Over the next 7 weeks or so, you can count on reading six “flavors” of reporting from training camps:

  1. Impressive rookies
  2. Veterans trying to add one more season to their careers
  3. Contract squabbles and progress/lack of progress on same
  4. Injuries
  5. Trade rumors – – related to injuries
  6. Deshaun Watson – – regardless of whatever punishment he receives

An NFL story that has not been a huge deal yet involves the Chicago Bears who are threatening to move from downtown Chicago (Soldier Field) and build a new stadium in the Chicago Suburbs at the site of a defunct racetrack in Arlington, IL.  Soldier Field is the smallest NFL venue seating “only” 61,500 fans and it is the oldest NFL venue having been constructed in 1924.  Back in 2002, the stadium owner – – the Chicago Parks District – – added a controversial renovation to the facility.  What was once a classic looking structure with stone pillars and open promenades now looks like an old stone stadium upon which an alien spaceship had landed.  I do not recall anyone denying that Soldier Field “needed work” but what was done to the stadium was an eyesore.  That project cost $630M.

  • [Aside:  I believe it was Jay Mariotti – then a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times – who dubbed the new version of Soldier Field as an “eyesore on the lake shore.”]

The folks who run Chicago would certainly prefer not to have the Bears move out of the city.  They have proposed putting a dome on Soldier Field – along with other renovations and upgrades – as an enticement for the team to stay where it is.  I have never been to a Bears’ game at Soldier Field, but I have seen Soldier Field before the alien spaceship landed there and after the ship took up residence there.  Let me say this clearly:

  • Putting a dome on top of the architectural monstrosity that is the current version of Soldier Field would be like adding wallpaper to the inside of a porta-potty and thinking it made for a nicer environment.

This story is far from over.  The Bears lease on Soldier Field runs through 2033 and according to a report I read, it would cost the team $84M to get out of that lease after 2026.  So, there is plenty of time for posturing and politicking here.

Finally, since much of today has involved talk about money, let me close with this observation by Will Rogers:

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress peoples they don’t like.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “When $440M Is “Not Enough”…”

  1. Which is the bigger eyesore: A Soldier’s Field renovation or Mitch Trubisky throwing the football?

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