Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Soto, Josh Bell, Nats agree for 2021
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By HOWARD FENDRICH
WASHINGTON (AP) NL batting champion Juan Soto, shortstop Trea Turner and first baseman Josh Bell agreed to 2021 contracts for substantial raises with the Washington Nationals on Friday, leaving the team with no players headed to arbitration.
Soto's one year-deal is worth $8.5 million, Turner's is for $13 million and Bell's is $6.35 million. Friday was when players and teams were to exchange proposed salary figures for arbitration.
A young, slugging outfielder, Soto hit .351 in 2020, also leading the National League in on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.695). He finished with a team-high 13 homers and 37 RBIs in 47 games during the pandemic-truncated season.
Soto made just above $230,000 in prorated salary in 2020; he had been due to make nearly $630,000 if it had been a full season.
This was his first time being eligible for arbitration.
Soto, who turned 22 in October, has primarily been a left fielder in the majors, but he also spent some time in right field in 2020 and could make a full-time shift over there next season, allowing free-agent signing Kyle Schwarber to play left.
"I mean, when you look at Soto, I mean, obviously, I think he's probably - I think he's the best hitter in the game. I really do," Schwarber said last week after joining Washington. "Even at his age, I think he's one of the best hitters in the game. I mean, he's showing it on a consistent basis right now, what he can do."
Soto was fifth in NL MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger award, a year after helping Washington win the franchise's first World Series title.
Turner came in seventh place in the MVP tally after topping the NL in hits with 78 and coming in fourth in batting average at .335. He led Washington with 41 RBIs and 12 stolen bases and finished second on the club with 12 homers.
The 27-year-old Turner is a fixture at the top of the lineup and pairs with Soto to give the Nationals two offensive cornerstones.
Turner was supposed to make $7.45 million in 2020, but that was reduced to a prorated salary of about $2.75 million.
General manager Mike Rizzo has pursued a long-term deal for Turner.
"Trea is part of that core that we're talking about. You are looking at a young player that's really coming into his own and becoming a real factor in the game, so he's a guy that we have had discussions in the past," Rizzo said in September. "We certainly would love to continue to have discussions."
Washington traded for Bell last month in its first significant move of the offseason, filling a hole at first base while also hoping to add some pop to the batting order by getting him from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Nationals are counting on the 28-year-old Bell to play like the version that earned an NL All-Star berth for a terrific first half of the 2019 season - he batted .302 and produced 27 homers and 84 RBIs - rather than the player he's been since.
He slumped to a .233 average with 10 homers the rest of the way that season, then dropped to a career-worst .226 average with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 57 games in 2020.
Bell collected a prorated salary of a little more than $1.77 million last season; his contract was worth $4.8 million before the pandemic shortened the schedule.
Note: The Nationals also announced Friday that they agreed to terms with 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Armando Cruz and nine other international free agents. A total of five are from the Dominican Republic, four from Venezuela and one from Aruba; all are teens.
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Updated January 15, 2021