Nats deny saying Soriano rejected $70M contract offer

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Nationals special assistant to the general manager Jose Rijo denied a published report Thursday that he told a radio station that Alfonso Soriano had rejected a $70 million, five-year contract.

"We have a meeting with Soriano this week, because we still want him to be on the team," Rijo told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday.

Rijo denied telling radio station 91.9 FM, based in San Cristobal, that the Nationals would not be able to sign Soriano for economic reasons. Thursday editions of the Dominican newspaper Listin Diario quoted Rijo as telling 91.9 FM: "It's almost impossible this great player will stay on our payroll."

Ramon Gonzalez, a 91.9 FM reporter who said he did the Rijo interview, insisted Rijo did make the comments.

"Rijo said that the Nationals were not going to sign Soriano for economic reasons, and that is the truth," Gonzalez said.

But Rijo denied speaking with the radio station Wednesday.

"I haven't made those statements," Rijo said. "We're doing everything we can to sign him. That's why we didn't trade [Soriano] before the deadline, because we think we have the chance to sign him."

Soriano can test the free agency market; he played last season for Washington under a one-year, $10 million deal. The Dominican slugger is coming off the best season of his career, becoming the first 40-40-40 player (home runs-steals-doubles) in major league history.

Nationals president Stan Kasten declined to comment on the status of Soriano's contract but said Rijo also had told the Nationals he did not make the comments attributed to him.

Soriano's agent, Diego Bentz, wouldn't comment when reached by telephone Thursday.