The San Diego Padres have acquired superstar outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals, the teams announced Tuesday.
The price for the Padres is far from cheap. The return package going to the Nationals includes prospects in left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielder James Wood and right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana. Washington also gets veteran first baseman/designated hitter Luke Voit.
The Padres on Tuesday also executed an additional deal before the trade deadline, acquiring third baseman/utility man Brandon Drury from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for shortstop prospect Victor Acosta, it was announced.
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The original iteration of the deal with the Nationals could not be executed after San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer, sources said, refused to remove Washington from his no-trade list. He instead was later shipped by the Padres to the Boston Red Sox.
Soto, a two-time All-Star who won this year’s Home Run Derby, enriches the Padres as a historically talented 23-year-old hitter whose early-career peers are almost all Hall of Famers. He will benefit greatly from joining shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and third baseman Manny Machado near the top of the Padres’ lineup.
“We feel like we’re going to put up a show and it’s going to be really fun to watch,” said Tatis, who is close to returning from a broken left wrist and could be 10 days to two weeks away from being added to the active roster.
Tatis has known Soto since they were teenagers in the Dominican Republic.
“We have the talent,” Tatis said of a possible World Series run. “We definitely have the talent, and we have the team to do it. Now it’s up to us to put the work out there and make it happen.”
The path from Soto turning down a recent 15-year, $440 million contract offer from the Nationals to a deal with the Padres was quick and linear. The Nationals did not want to raise their offer. San Diego, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals matched up best with Washington’s desire for young talent.
In Good Company
Juan Soto, who was traded to the Padres on Tuesday, is second only to Hall of Famer Ted Williams in on-base percentage through his age-23 season during the modern era (since 1900).
YEARS PLAYER OBP HOF?
1939-42 Ted Williams .481 Yes
2018-22 Juan Soto .427 ?
1932-35 Arky Vaughan .422 Yes
1925-31 Jimmie Foxx .421 Yes
1926-32 Mel Ott .421 Yes
>>Min. 2,000 plate appearances
“We set the bar very, very high, and one team exceeded it, and that’s the deal we made,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said. “Props to the San Diego Padres. They’re not afraid, and ownership’s not afraid and A.J. Preller’s not afraid, and they were aggressive — and we made a deal that you call historical.”
The interested teams and observers alike regarded the opportunity to trade for a player of Soto’s caliber as a once-in-a-generation event, though most teams did not have the requisite talent to enter the fray for a star who doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2024 season.
“Ultimately, we’re looking at it as three years, three pennant races with one of the best hitters, maybe the best hitter in the game,” said Preller, the Padres’ general manager. “That’s a long time. … We’ll have time to figure out down the road the long-term commitment.
“You’re talking about a 23-year-old player who won a World Series, won a batting title, is a perennial MVP candidate, at that age. I think we were on the same page what it meant for our franchise.”
As alluring as the club control might be to the Padres, what matters most is what Soto does best: hit. And he does that about as well as anyone in the game. While Soto’s batting average this season of .246 is well below his .291 career average, he leads the major leagues in walks — he is the only active MLB player to have more walks than strikeouts in his career — and is among the leaders in home runs (21).
He also is coming off a big July, when he hit .315/.495/.616 with six home runs.
“The atmosphere here is they want to win, and not just go to the playoffs but win a World Series,” said All-Star closer Josh Hader, who was obtained by San Diego on Monday in another big deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. “That’s a contagious atmosphere to be a part of.”
In Soto, the Padres receive a hitter with an uncommon eye and power — the golden combination that could lead a man to turn down $440 million. Since debuting at age 19, Soto has been a revelatory hitter, slashing .291/.426/.537 with 119 home runs, 358 RBIs, 464 walks and 414 strikeouts.
San Diego also gets much-needed help at the right-field spot, where they have gotten just three home runs this season.
Soto helped lead the Nationals to their first championship in 2019, and even as Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer and Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon left via free agency or trades, Soto remained in Washington, expected to carry the mantle for the organization.
Soto thanked the team in a series of tweets early Wednesday morning, writing, “I will always feel honored to have been a National.”
Bell is hitting a career-high .301 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs in his second season with the Nationals. He spent his first five MLB seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, getting an All-Star nod in 2019, and he has a career .266 batting average with 127 home runs and 454 RBIs.
Bell, 29, is signed through this season.
Drury, also 29, is in the midst of a career season and can play all around the diamond. He is hitting .274 with a career-high 20 home runs. His 59 RBIs is just four short of his career high, set in 2017 while with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In nine MLB seasons, which also included stops with the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees, Drury has a .253 career average with 71 home runs and 249 RBIs.
“To have two minor league offers coming into the season and to have Cincinnati give me this opportunity and put my career back on track, it’s been amazing,” Drury said in the Reds clubhouse before Cincinnati played the Miami Marlins. “I can’t thank Cincinnati enough. A huge turning point in my career.”
Drury said he is happy to go to a contender. The Padres are in second place behind the Dodgers in the National League West.
Padres Taking The Offensive
The Padres, who have had only three home runs this season from their right fielders, improved greatly with Tuesday’s deal to acquire outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell from the Nationals. Here are San Diego’s offensive ranks by batter’s defensive position this season:
MLB RANK RF 1B DH
OPS 27th 19th 15th
HR 29th* T-26th T-14th
RBI 23rd T-16th 12th
XBH 28th T-17th 14th
**3 HRs in 371 AB from RF in ’22
“To be part of that lineup is going to be pretty special, and I’m excited to help them win ballgames,” he said.
News of the Soto deal immediately was felt at Caesars Sportsbook, with San Diego’s odds of winning the World Series improving from +2000 to +800. In addition, odds shifted on the Padres winning the National League pennant from +800 to +400.
The Nationals own the majors’ worst record at 36-69. They had lost four of five games entering Tuesday, but they took down the New York Mets 5-1 in Jacob deGrom’s return to the mound for New York.
The 31-year-old Voit is hitting .225 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs this season. Prior to joining the Padres this season, Voit spent four seasons with the Yankees and two with the Cardinals. He has 86 career home runs with 251 RBIs and a .258 batting average.
Gore, who is currently on the 15-day injured list with elbow soreness, was recently added to the Padres’ bullpen. The 23-year-old left-hander made his debut this season after ranking among the game’s top pitching prospects since he was selected in the first round of the 2017 draft.
He was exceptional early in the season, going 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his first nine games, including eight starts. But he made two straight appearances out of the bullpen after San Diego transitioned from a six-man rotation to a five-man staff.
Gore left after throwing just 35 pitches in an outing against the Detroit Tigers on July 25, and his fastball velocity in that game (92.7 mph) was down more than 2 mph from his season average. His 70 innings pitched this season are already 19⅔ more than he threw in 2021, and he was on pace to far exceed his career high in the minors of 101 innings.
Rizzo said the Nationals reviewed Gore’s elbow MRI and that doctors gave the OK to acquire him. The team will “go easy” with Gore, though, given his heavy workload so far this season.
Abrams, 21, was the No. 6 pick of the 2019 draft. He is hitting .232 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in the majors this season and .314 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs at Triple-A El Paso.
Hassell, 20, was the No. 8 pick of the 2020 draft. He is hitting .299 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs at high-A Fort Wayne.
Wood, a 19-year-old outfielder and second-round selection in last year’s draft, is batting .321 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs for Class A Lake Elsinore.
“We were fortunate that it was a well-rounded trade,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got two pitchers, two outfielders and a shortstop, which fit our needs perfectly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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