The Juan Soto saga took another weird turn Monday night.
The current-but-possibly-on-the-trade-block outfielder for the Washington Nationals arrived less than 24 hours before the Home Run Derby after Soto flew commercially to Los Angeles following the team's series against the Atlanta Braves in D.C. That drew the ire of Soto's agent, Scott Boras, who pointed out how unfair it was that players from the Braves were chartered to All-Star Weekend but the Nationals couldn't do the same for Soto.
"The Atlanta Braves arrived [in Los Angeles] five hours earlier than Juan Soto did," Boras said, according to Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein. "You know why? Because their team chartered a plane. Juan Soto had to fly on a commercial flight and wait in an airport for two hours and get here at 1:30 in the morning and have to compete in the Home Run Derby. And that’s something that Major League Baseball did not take care of and that’s something that the Washington Nationals did not take care of.”
Soto has been the talk of MLB after news broke the Nationals would explore trading him after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million extension with the team. After he won the Home Run Derby over Julio Rodriguez, Soto admitted the strangeness of his situation with Washington.
“A couple weeks ago, they were saying they’d never trade me, and now all these things are coming out,” Soto said. “It feels really uncomfortable. You don’t know what to trust. But at the end of the day, it’s out of my hands, with what decision they make.”
Boras added that Soto wanted his conversations with the Nationals to be private, but now that they aren't he "will take that under advisement as he goes forward."
Another All-Star gets a solo chartered flight
While Soto flew commercially, a different All-Star hopped on a chartered flight with a rival team.
Oakland Athletics pitcher Paul Blackburn flew with the Houston Astros' chartered plane to Los Angeles after he finished up a three-game series in Houston. The Astros offered the flight after hearing Blackburn originally planned to fly commercial. While Blackburn said the situation was a little awkward at first, he enjoyed the whole experience.
"It was fun. I felt like they made me feel very welcomed and comfortable," Blackburn said, per Fox's Mark Berman. "We had some good conversations, some good laughs. It was fun. It was a good time. ... It's awesome. It just kind of shows that, within baseball, it's kind of like a brotherhood. Everyone respects each other and tries to help each other out. I'm greatly appreciative for their organization and letting me tag along over here."
For what it's worth, both Soto and Blackburn were their team's only All-Stars. But one is a 28-year-old pitcher, while the other is a 23-year-old slugger who the Nationals are trying to keep on their roster for a long time. It doesn't help, too, that the Nationals are "almost sure to sell," according to The New York Post's Jon Heyman.
Needless to say, the relationship between Soto and the Nationals continues to deteriorate.