Washington Nationals 'are not trading Juan Soto,' president and GM Mike Rizzo says

Mike Rizzo says the Washington Nationals will not trade Juan Soto, insisting instead that the club intends to build around the superstar outfielder.

Rizzo, the Nationals' president of baseball operations and general manager, directly addressed Soto's long-term future in Washington during a radio interview Wednesday morning.

"We are not trading Juan Soto," Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. "We made it clear to his agent and to the player."

Soto, 23, is eligible to become a free agent after the 2024 season. The former National League batting champion told ESPN earlier this year that he declined a 13-year, $350 million contract offered by the Nationals before this past winter's lockout.

The Nationals have finished last in the NL East each of the past two seasons and once again find themselves in the basement of the division, entering Wednesday at 18-33, leading to widespread speculation that Soto could be traded in a megadeal to help accelerate a rebuild.

But Rizzo said Wednesday that he has told both Soto and his agent, Scott Boras, that the Nationals want to keep the All-Star outfielder as their centerpiece.

"We have every intention of building this team around Juan Soto, and we've spoken to his agent many, many times," Rizzo said. "We recently sat with him when he was in Washington, D.C., and made it clear to him that we're not interested in trading him.

"I guess the rest of the world doesn't believe it, but that's our position."

Soto is off to a slow start this season, batting .232 with nine home runs and just 16 RBIs in 51 games, but he still boasts a .379 on-base percentage thanks to his major-leagues-leading 42 walks. The left-handed slugger also led the majors in on-base percentage (.465) and walks (145) in 2021, one year after winning the NL batting crown with a .351 average in 2020.

Soto's future also could be affected by a potential ownership transition for the Nationals, who have been owned by the Lerner family since 2006. The family is exploring the possibility of selling the Nationals and hired a firm earlier this year to find potential investors to buy part or all of the franchise.