Club “renews” Soto’s contract for $629,400 (Nats tie Marlins)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Unable to agree to terms on their own, the Nationals have unilaterally set Juan Soto’s 2020 salary at $629,400, a source familiar with the figure confirmed.

The mechanism of teams setting the salaries of players who aren’t yet eligible for arbitration, known as “renewing,” isn’t uncommon. Those young players can negotiate their salaries, but in most every case the final figure is based on big league service time and not performance.

Soto-Flips-Helmet-After-K-vs-BAL-Blue-Sidebar.jpgThe process is fairly simple in the majority of cases: The team determines the salary, and the player agrees to it. But for young stars who outperform others of their experience level, there’s sometimes motivation to negotiate a higher salary.

Teams hold all the leverage in those talks, though, and have the right to simply set the salary at its preferred level whether the player agrees to it or not.

Soto does get a modest raise from his 2019 salary of $578,300, but his 2020 salary will be commensurate with other players who have roughly the same big league service time he does (1 year, 134 days). None of those comparable players can match his on-field performance: a .287 batting average, .403 on-base percentage, 56 homers, 180 RBIs and .937 OPS in 266 major league games.

Soto should get a big raise next winter, assuming he qualifies for early arbitration as a so-called “Super-2” player. His salary should continue to skyrocket through each of his four years of arbitration eligibility before he can become a free agent after the 2024 season.

The Nationals, as you’d expect, are interested in trying to lock up Soto to a long-term deal well before he ever hits the open market. To date, those interests haven’t been shared by the 21-year-old slugger and agent Scott Boras.

The renewal process that just took place may not matter much in the grand scheme of things. Then again, it’s never a great look when a team and one of the sport’s brightest young stars can’t find common ground on contract terms at this point, especially when far more significant contract negotiations loom in the not-too-distant future.

USA Today was first to report the renewal of Soto’s current contract.

Update: The Nationals went 1-0-1 this afternoon. The home team tied the Marlins, 2-2, getting a pair of RBI singles from Howie Kendrick, 2 1/3 innings from Joe Ross and then lockdown relief from Wander Suero, Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, Aaron Barrett and Fernando Abad. Up in Port St. Lucie, the other split-squad club beat the Mets, 5-0. Austin Voth started with three scoreless innings, then was followed out of the ‘pen by Wil Crowe, Bryan Bonnell, Javy Guerra, Kevin Quackenbush and Dakota Bacus. The offense came from Ryan Zimmerman (two-run single), Carter Kieboom (two-out RBI single) and Emilio Bonifacio (solo homer off Jeurys Familia).

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