WASHINGTON—There is a chance Juan Soto has played his final game as a member of the Nationals.
Washington is exploring the possibility of moving its 23-year-old superstar ahead of Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET trade deadline. After Soto declined three extension offers — the last of which was for 15 years and $440 million — President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo informed opposing teams he would listen on trade offers.
So when the Nationals played Monday’s series opener against the New York Mets, Soto took the field donning the Curly W for what might have been the last time. Facing his former teammate Max Scherzer, he made sure to put on a show for the hometown crowd.
Defense has been an issue for Soto this year, but he made one of his best plays of the season in the top of the second. Starling Marte singled to right with the bases loaded, scoring Jeff McNeil and sending Tomás Nido scampering home for another. Soto erased the Mets catcher with a bullet to home plate that Keibert Ruiz caught on the fly.
At the plate, Soto was even more busy. He drew a walk against Scherzer in the bottom of the first and scored the first run of the game with some heads-up baserunning on a Marte throwing error. In his second at-bat, he took Scherzer deep to left-center field for his 21st home run of the season and first since the All-Star Break.
With another walk in the fifth — also against Scherzer — Soto recorded his 26th game of the season in which he reached base three times. The only player with more is Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman (28).
“Juan is Juan,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said in his press conference following the 7-3 loss. “He comes in, he plays hard and, like I’ve been telling him for the last week and a half, ‘You gotta just control what you can control. Go out there and have fun and play baseball.’ And he’s been doing that.”
Soto then wrapped up his evening with another walk in the eighth and stole a base for good measure. It was the seventh time he had reached four times in a game, tied for fourth in the majors with Aaron Judge. As he took off his shin guard and jogged toward first base, Nationals fans gave him a standing ovation.
“It means a lot,” Soto said of the ovation after the game. “It kinda feels weird too because it’s nothing’s happened yet and it’s just still waiting. It’s kinda cool at the same time but it’s kinda weird too.
“Just going out there, keep playing hard for those fans out there because I know, like they were saying, they love me, so I’m just gonna give them love back.”
His outing showcased the rare blend of power and plate discipline that has put Soto on a Hall of Fame track so early in his career.
It’s a skillset that has enthralled Nationals fans for the last four years. On Tuesday, they will find out whether another fanbase will have that privilege moving forward.
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