Juan Soto is heading west…
The San Diego Padres have acquired the 23-year-old Dominican professional baseball outfielder, nicknamed “Childish Bambino“, and first baseman Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals.
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 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.
The original 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 MLB All-Star who won this year’s Home Run Derby, enriches the Padres as a historically talented 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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”