Juan Soto leaves Nationals for San Diego in big MLB trade: NPR

Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals smiles in the dugout after a solo home run against the New York Mets at Nationals Park Monday in Washington.

Alex Brandon/AP

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Alex Brandon/AP

Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals smiles in the dugout after a solo home run against the New York Mets at Nationals Park Monday in Washington.

Alex Brandon/AP

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres acquired superstar outfielder Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals on Tuesday in one of baseball’s biggest trade deadline deals, skipping their playoff chances by adding one of the best young hitters in the game.

The Padres also got first baseman Josh Bell while sending a group of players to Washington, including rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore, first baseman/DH Luke Voit and prospects James Wood, CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell III and Jarlin Susana.

Voit was a late addition to the deal after San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer refused to waive a no-trade provision, according to a person with direct knowledge of the move who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity as negotiations were ongoing at the time. .

Soto is a generational talent who turns 24 at the end of October, when the Padres still hope to play for a title.

After contributing to the first Nationals championship in franchise history in 2019, Soto hit .351 in 2020 to win the NL batting title. He has been marketed more than any other Major League Baseball player in the past two seasons.

“The atmosphere here is that they want to win, and not just go to the playoffs, but win a World Series,” said All-Star closest Josh Hader, who was obtained by San Diego on Monday in another big contract with Milwaukee. “It’s an infectious atmosphere to be a part of.”

San Diego started the season with a luxury tax payroll of $229.3 million, just below the first threshold, and the trades are pushing the Padres into tax territory for the second straight season. Soto owes $5,978,022 for the remainder of this season and Bell owes $3,516,844.

The prospect group heading to Washington is one of the most touted groups ever involved in a single deal. Gore and Abrams made their San Diego debuts this season after ranking among the sport’s elite minor leaguers, Hassell and Wood are both top 100 prospects according to MLB.com, and Susana was considered the best available pitcher in the 2021-22 international free agent class.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo set a steep price tag last month after reports emerged that Soto had turned down the team’s latest contract offer of $440 million over 15 years.

Soto remains under team control for two more seasons after this one, so it’s unclear if the Nationals would trade him now. The Padres got him for potentially three playoffs, even without a new deal, made him the pinnacle of Soto’s value.

That uncertainty began to weigh on Soto, who said after Sunday’s game against St. Louis, “I just want to get it over with and see what happens. Start over here or wherever I am.”

He’s starting fresh in San Diego midway through his second All-Star season, part of a packed roster that also includes All-Star Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. when the shortstop returns from a left wrist broken.

“It’s pretty impressive to have these three types of guys on one team in the same roster,” Wil Myers, the Padres’ longest-serving player, said. “Glad to see this trio hopefully in the next week or two.”

Tatis could be 10 days to two weeks away from being added to the active roster.

With little protection around him in Washington’s lineup, Soto hit .246 with 20 home runs and 45 RBIs and 91 walks in 101 games.

In 2,435 plate appearances since his Nationals debut in 2018, Soto is batting .291 with 118 home runs and 357 RBIs. He’s only a few years away from slugging .695 with 1,185 OPS and .490 on-base percentage – all NL bests.

Soto becomes the latest Nationals player to be traded as part of the organization’s long-term rebuilding, and ownership seeks to sell the team. Rizzo traded shortstop Trea Turner, ace Max Scherzer, power hitter Kyle Schwarber and five others at deadline last year, and Washington let Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and others go to agency free.

The quintet of young players from San Diego could join those acquired last year – including pitcher Josiah Gray and receiver Keibert Ruiz – as the core of Washington’s next contender.

Gore, a 23-year-old left-handed pitcher, had a 1.50 ERA in his first nine starts this year, but is now on the injured list with elbow inflammation. Abrams struggled to fill in for the injured Tatis at shortstop to start the season, but he’s just 21 and hit .314 at Triple-A.

Hassell, 20, the 8th overall pick in the 2020 Entry Draft, hit an RBI single in last month’s All-Star Futures Game. Wood, a 19-year-old outfielder and a second-round pick in last year’s draft, is batting .321 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs for Class A Lake Elsinore. Susana, an 18-year-old right-hander, has a 2.45 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings with the San Diego complex league team.

Neal T. Doss