After a whirlwind three weeks, Juan Soto it is moving. the Washington Nationals reportedly traded his young superstar to the San Diego Padres Tuesday alongside star first baseman Josh Bell, hours before MLB’s 6 pm trade deadline, Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser confirmed. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported on the deal.
parents announced the deal hours later.
With the successful deal, Padres executive AJ Preller adds two of the best hitters available and sets up the potential for a Soto-Manny Machado-Fernando Tatis Jr. lineup combo for at least three playoff runs. Returning to the Nationals is a treasure trove of young players and prospects. The package includes young shortstop CJ Abrams and starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore, who has impressed as a rookie this season. Also included are top prospect Robert Hassell III, promising prospect James Wood and several others.
One problem with the deal involved Eric Hosmer, who was originally included in the deal. He reportedly rejected his inclusion in the Washington deal through his limited no-trade clause and was later traded to the Boston Red Sox. The first baseman has three years and $39 million left on his contract after this season, and the Padres were looking to move him in hopes of remaining under the competitive balance tax. Eventually, first baseman Luke Voit was added to Washington’s side to complete the deal.
Those young players will be part of a full rebuilding project in Washington, while Soto will head to a team that plans to use him for a playoff run this year, and potentially for more than a decade. The deal ends a fast-forward saga that saw Soto go from untouchable franchise to trade bloc to “member of the San Diego Padres” in less than a month.
A 23-year-old hitting demigod whose only real ancestor is Ted Williams is now going to play in the hometown of Splendid Splinter.
Will Juan Soto sign an extension?
With Soto now in another uniform, the new question is how long he will remain in that uniform.
Soto has two and a half years of team control left, then hits free agency after the 2024 season. He has already turned down a 15-year, $440 million extension offer from the Nationals. that would have been the largest contract in MLB history for total money, though the average annual value of $29.3 million was below what his elite MLB peers earn.
The Nationals got rid of Soto because they didn’t think they could keep him long-term, and now it’s up to Preller and the Padres to handle the same problem. With Scott Boras as his agent, it seems very possible that Soto will wait until it hits the open market before deciding his future.
Everything indicates that Juan Soto will be a future member of the Hall of Fame
What drives all the Soto speculation is the simple fact that few, if any, MLB players have entered the trade market with a resume like Soto’s at an age like Soto’s.
In five seasons in the MLB, Soto has hit .291/.427/.538 with 119 home runs, an unprecedented pace for a player his age in this millennium. His discipline at the plate is elite to elite, and he has found enough power to win this year’s Home Run Derby.
Throw in his big hitting in Washington’s 2019 playoff run, and you have a guy with virtually zero red flags and historic potential.
This season has been a bad year for Soto, but even though he’s hitting below .250, his 158 OPS+, a park-adjusted measure of overall offensive performance, is still among the best in the MLB. Players like this appear once in a generation, and almost everyone ends up hearing their names in Cooperstown (barring extenuating circumstances).
The only question with Soto is how much he can improve.
How the Nationals ended up trading Juan Soto
Flash back to 2019. The Washington Nationals are World Series champions. They may not have Bryce Harper anymore, but they still have a collection of All-Stars like Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner, Patrick Corbin and, of course, Soto.
Soto was 20 years old that season and already an elite hitter. Any MLB club serious about competition would want him on their team, and it would make sense for the Nationals to go to great lengths to sign him long-term. So why are they trading it?
Well, short answer, the Nationals have been a mess since hoisting that trophy. Rendon left in free agency. Strasburg returned on a new contract, but has made eight starts since then and is now dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome, often a death sentence for pitchers. Corbin has become arguably the worst starting pitcher in the league. The team was bad enough to trade Scherzer and Turner at last year’s trade deadline rather than try to keep them in free agency.
Meanwhile, no local star has emerged to pick up the slack, as the Nationals have scrapped virtually every first-round draft pick from 2013 to 2019.
The Nationals have gone from 93 wins (and a ring) in 2019 to a 70-win pace in the abbreviated 2020 season, 65 wins in 2021 and now a 56-win pace this season. It will take years for them to get back into playoff contention, and Soto wouldn’t have been much help if he left after the 2024 season.
So trade speculation was inevitable for Soto this season once the Nationals looked like a burning dumpster again. Things accelerated when Soto turned down that $440 million deal last month, and now he’s headed to a new team, because the old one didn’t want to meet his price and benefited little from having him anytime soon.
Soto, Bell join Padres alongside Josh Hader, Brandon Drury
The Padres didn’t just add Soto. They landed a surprise addition to the bullpen on Monday trading for star Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader. And on Tuesday afternoon they traded a prospect for Brandon Drury, a play-anywhere utility guy who has a career year for the Cincinnati Reds.
While San Diego has played well enough to make the playoffs feel secure, the team went into the deadline looking a little off balance. Manny Machado’s outside lineup hasn’t been up to the standards of an all-star rotation, and the bullpen has been merely average.
According to wRC+, a park-adjusted measure of offensive performance, the Padres acquired their best, third- and fourth-best hitters of 2022 on Tuesday, giving Machado much more support as they await the return of Fernando Tatis Jr.
Although they almost certainly won’t catch up with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West (they currently have a 12-game lead), the Padres look much more formidable in a short playoff series.