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Jul 18, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto (22) with agent Scott Boras in attendance during media availabilities at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — All-Star week has been buzzing with the usual fanfare and festivities, but the story that continues to make headlines is Juan Soto’s decision to turn down a 15-year, $440 million contract from the Washington Nationals. As a result, the team is reportedly listening to trade offers for the 23-year-old superstar.

On Monday, with his agent Scott Boras standing behind him, Soto sat in front of dozens of media members and answered each question about the Nationals’ extension offer — and his rejection.

“I can't do anything about it. I have my hands tied,” Soto said. “I'm just going to play as hard as I can."

Some fans might be stunned that $440 million isn’t enough for Soto to remain in Washington D.C., but the decision of the two-time All-Star and 2019 World Series champion goes deeper than that.

While the Nationals are offering the largest contract in MLB history in terms of total value — topping Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels in 2019 — the 15-year pact carries an annual average value of just over $29 million, which would rank only 15th among the highest AAVs ahead of Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale ($29 million) and behind San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado ($30 million).

Baseball’s highest AAV currently belongs to New York Mets ace Max Scherzer at a whopping $43.3 million. Teams interested in signing Soto to a long-term contract seemingly will have to start negotiations at $500 million and go above Scherzer’s AAV.

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All-Star hot topic: Juan Soto's future

Soto isn’t your ordinary player on the market. He is arguably the best hitter in baseball and one of the top five players in the game.

One thing was clear from Soto’s media availability on Monday: He’s not happy with how things have unfolded with him and the Nationals.

"I try to keep my stuff private and not try to throw stuff out there,” a somber Soto said. “It feels really bad. But at the end of the day, we just have to keep playing. It doesn't matter what's happening.

“A couple weeks ago, they were saying they will never trade me. And now all these things come out. You don't know what to trust."

Players and teams disagree on extension figures all the time, but it feels like there’s no going back between Soto and the Nationals. As far as the trade market, the situation couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for teams seeking an elite bat. Not only does Soto jump to the top of the list of best hitters available, but the big-market team that acquires him likely has the inside track to sign him long-term as well.

The price? A king’s ransom would be a good description. However, a club must first satisfy what Washington is looking for in a trade. The Nationals have the luxury of naming their price on Soto and can wait until the offseason to sell to the highest bidder.

The story isn’t going away anytime soon. And Boras standing behind his superstar client was symbolic, as there’s no doubt the mega agent is going to make his presence felt throughout the process.

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