The San Diego Padres acquired defending star Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals on Tuesday in one of baseball’s biggest deals on Deadline Trade, jumping their chances after the season by adding one of the game’s best young hitters.
Padres also earned first base officer Josh Bell while sending a group of players to Washington that included Mackenzie Gore, first baseman/DH Luke Voight and future prospects James Wood, CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell III and Garleen Susanna.
Voit was a late addition to the deal after San Diego’s top businessman Eric Hosmer refused to waive the no-trade clause, according to a person with direct knowledge of the move who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because negotiations were underway at the time.
After reeling in Soto, the 24-year-old generational talent in late October, San Diego General Manager A.J. Briller also acquired player Brandon Drury from Cincinnati. Padres has sent young footballer Victor Acosta to the Reds for the 29-year-old Drury, who has scored 20 players this year.
After contributing to the first Nationals in franchise history in 2019, Soto hit 0.351 in 2020 to win the NL batting title. He’s walked more than any other player in the major leagues over the past two seasons.
“The atmosphere here is that they want to win, and not just go to the playoffs but win the world championship,” said nearby All-Star Josh Hader, who got San Diego on Monday in another big deal with Milwaukee. “This is a contagious atmosphere to be a part of.”
San Diego kicked off the season with a luxury tax payout of $229.3 million, just below the first cap, and trades propelled the Padres family into tax territory for the second consecutive season. Soto owes $5,978,022 for the rest of this season and Bell $3,516,844.
The expectation package that is going to Washington is one of the most connected groups that have ever been involved in a single deal. Gore and Abrams made their San Diego debut this season after being ranked among the top minor league players in the sport, Hassell and Wood were in the top 100 potential teams according to MLB.com, and Susanna was considered the best bowler available in the 2021- International Free Agent category 22.
Washington General Manager Mike Rizzo set a high price last month after reports emerged that Soto turned down the team’s last contract offer of $440 million over 15 years.
“We set the standard very high, one team passed it and that’s the deal we made,” said Rizzo. Props to San Diego Padres. They are not afraid, the monarchy is not afraid and AJ Preller is not afraid and they have been aggressive and we made a deal that you call historic.”
Soto remains in team control for two more seasons after this season, making it uncertain that the Nationals will trade him now. Padres brought him to three potential playoffs even in the absence of a new deal making this the pinnacle of Soto’s value.
That uncertainty is starting to weigh on Soto, who said after Sunday’s game against St. Louis: “I just want to get over it and see what happens. Start here or wherever you are.”
He will start again in San Diego in the middle of his second All-Star season, and is part of a loaded lineup that also includes All-Star Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr when he returns short-stopping from his broken left wrist.
“It’s impressive to have three types of players on one team in the same squad,” said Will Myers, Padres’ longest-serving player. “Excited to see this trio, hopefully in the next week or two.”
Tatis can be 10 days to 2 weeks away from being added to the active list.
With little protection around him in Washington’s lineup, Soto hit .246 with 20 home points, 45 RBIs and 91 walks in 101 games.
In 2,435 plate appearances since his national debut in 2018, Soto’s hit 0.291 with 118 home points and 357 RBIs. It cleared after just two years of idle 0.695 with 1185 OPS and .490 on a percentage basis—all NL better.
Soto has become the latest Nationals player to be traded as part of the organization’s long-term rebuilding and with ownership looking to sell the team. Rizzo traded Tria Turner, ace Max Scherzer, power hitter Kyle Schwarber and five others on Deadline last year, and Washington allowed Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and others to move into free agency.
The quintet of young San Diego players who were acquired last year – including bowler Josiah Gray and catch Quebert Ruiz – could join the core of Washington’s next contender.
Gore, 23, had a 1.50 ERA during his first nine games this year, but is now on the list with elbow inflammation. Abrams struggled as a fill for the injured Tates in short order to start the season, but is only 21 and hit 0.314 in Triple-A.
20-year-old Hassell, No. 8 overall in the 2020 Amateur Draft, won the RBI song at All-Star Futures last month. Wood, the 19-year-old defensive player selected in the second round in last year’s draft, hits 321 with 10 home hurdles and 45 RBI for Class A Lake Elsinore. Right-handed 18-year-old Susanna has a 2.45 ERA with 44 strikes in 29 1/3 innings with the San Diego Complicated League side.
“We were lucky because it was such a good trade,” Rizzo said. “We have bowlers, two backs and a short goalkeeper, which fits our needs perfectly.”