Will Juan Soto Sign MLB’s First $500 Million Contract? Four reasons the new Padres star could hit the milestone.

Juan Soto, now of the San Diego Padres, is no longer the story of the 2022 MLB trade deadline. That’s because the 2022 MLB trade deadline has passed. Soto, however, lives the story. That’s the story in large part because of what it means for the San Diego lineup and their postseason hopes. He’s also the story because of the very real possibility that he will eventually become baseball’s first $500 million man.

Whether Soto threatens or surpasses that once-unthinkable mark through free agency or a contract extension with San Diego remains to be determined, but regardless of which specific path he takes, , he has, yes, a real chance of getting a half billion dollar (or) bailout. More!). If your baseball passion goes back many years, this is a pretty solid foundation – one that might be worth exploring further. Let’s do just that and explore the reasons why Soto could soon make MLB salary history in a big way.

1. Soto is a rare hitter.

Soto is batting .246/.408/.485 this season with 21 home runs and an MLB-leading 91 walks in 101 games. For his career, he now owns a slash line of .291/.427/.538 over parts of five major league seasons. He has also posted an on-base percentage of .400 or higher in every season of his career thus far, making:

Even more impressive is that Soto put up these numbers despite playing his home games in a ballpark that stifles the offense. Look at OPS+, which corrects for ballpark and league effects, and we find that Soto’s career park-adjusted OPS is 160, which means it’s 60 percent better than the league average of 100. This puts him in elite company. Players 23 years of age or younger with at least 500 games played:

Ted Williams

190

Ty Cobb

171

Mike Trout

169

Juan Soto

160

Eddie Matthews

157

Mickey Mantle

156

Jimmy Fox

154

mail out

153

Rogers Hornsby, Ark. Van

150

Yes, Soto’s career OPS+ of 160 is the fourth-highest ever for a player 23 or younger and at least 500 games played. Use the list above and you’ll find that the only players on it who aren’t currently Hall of Famers are Mike Trout and Soto. Enviable company, that.

His exceptional contact skills and mastery of the strike zone also suggest he will age as a hitter. Although he hits for power and has excellent exit velocity numbers, Soto has far more strikeouts — 464 total — than 412. What you want from a true hitter is a mix of power with patience – or, if you prefer, high slugging averages combined with on-base percentages. Soto delivers these things better than almost anyone in the game today.

On top of all these qualities, Soto has also been durable. This season, he is on pace to register his third season of at least 150 games played in the past four years. The exception, of course, is 2020, when the regular season was shortened to just 60 games.

2. He is still very young.

When Soto made his big league debut in 2018, he was just 19 years and 207 days old. Reaching baseball’s highest level at such a young age is itself a sign of future greatness, and it puts a player well ahead of most peers in reaching important standards of service time. For example, Soto qualified for arbitration – with the help of “Super Two” System – Going into the 2021 season. At that time he was only 22 years old. If he signs an extension during the current season, he will be 23 years old. If it happens in winter, he will be 24 years old. If Soto refuses to do so, he’ll become a free agent at age 26.

When a player combines excellence with youth — especially in free agency — he’s going to make a lot of money. That’s because he already promises an established level of high performance, and he figures to maintain that level at or near it for many years to come. When you’re as young as Soto, there’s also the possibility that he’s still on the rise. Teams will pay for it.

3. Soto and his camp turned down $440 million from the Nets.

Let’s acknowledge the obvious. The only reason we’re having this discussion is because Soto reportedly accepted the 15-year, $440 million extension offered by the Washington Nationals, the team that traded him away on Tuesday. Soto has been a Nets lifer since signing with them in 2015 as a 16-year-old international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. series with them in 2019. All of this is to say, there’s nothing to suggest that Soto turned down the offer out of unhappiness with the organization or a prevailing desire to play elsewhere. Rather, he most likely turned him down because he estimated that the prices for his services were too high. Generally, the players and their representatives are right about this, just as teams generally overestimate the scale of any “hometown discount.”

What Soto’s worth is truly unknown until he signs his next contract, but here’s a semi-recent informed estimate that fits perfectly with the premise at hand:

Value is a fluid concept, of course, and in this writing Spotrac puts Soto’s current market value at just over $483 million.. That’s obviously just shy of $500 million, but it’s within range. And as you saw above Soto is worth $500 million in the recent past.

4. An extension may be a possible route.

For this discussion, German means the four largest contract extensions in MLB history, not free agent contracts:

*You’ll occasionally see Trout’s extension listed at a lower price, but the total value of $426.5 million reflects the fact that the extension replaced the final two seasons of Trout’s previous contract.

Relatedly, that’s a hefty price tag when teams buy out free agent years, and in Soto’s case they won’t just be getting cost certainty in his final two arbitration years. They will also be paying for 10 or more free agent years. Also, the Padres have a heavy incentive to do what it takes to secure Soto’s services beyond the current horizon because they paid a hefty price for young talent to acquire him.

At this point, it’s worth emphasizing his extraordinary youth once again. Of the four record contract extensions you see above — the four largest in MLB history, mind you — only his new teammate Tatis Jr., who was 22 years old, was younger than Soto at the time of his extension. was Trout, Bates and Lindor were all 27 – much older than Soto at the time.

Tatis’ total contract value may weigh a point against Soto signing for $500 million or more, but don’t forget context. Tatis signed his extension in early 2021, when revenues were still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the expiring collective bargaining agreement added to the uncertainty in the game. Also, Tatis has already dealt with serious lower back issues, which is a concern for a young player who demands a defensive position and will certainly be reflected in the final price tag. Is. Throw in several years of salary inflation, and Tatis’ contract doesn’t really look like much of a framework for Soto.

In fact, it might seem like a harbinger of Soto becoming, yes, MLB’s first $500 million player.