While it wasn’t anything unexpected, the Padres have pulled off one of the biggest trades this era of baseball has seen, acquiring outfielder Juan Soto from the Nationals in a 7-player deal. The Padres struck an agreement to land Soto and first baseman Josh Bell, sending a haul of prospects and young major-leaguers in return: MacKenzie Gore, C.J. Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, and Jarlin Susana. Not going to the Nationals is Eric Hosmer, who rejected his inclusion in the deal but is still expected to be dealt today.
Padres Bolster Present and Future with Soto
There’s no denying the kind of unique trade piece Soto was. 23-year-olds with two top-5 MVP finishes and a World Series ring under their belt don’t come around often. Even rarer does a player with those accolades hit the trade market. Soto is such a safe acquisition because he’s an on-base machine. Even without much protection in the Nationals’ lineup, Soto has a .408 OBP and .894 OPS this season. If he can do that while hitting .246 – generating a 3.8 WAR – I would imagine his production in San Diego is a near-lock to return to what it was from 2019-2021. Soto hit .313 with 29 home runs, an utterly ridiculous .465 OBP, and a .999 OPS last season, even after struggling for extended stretches during the first half. He was dominant after the all-star break, posting a .525 OBP and rocketing himself to a 2nd-place finish in MVP voting.
Even amid the incessant trade rumors, Soto had a 1.111 OPS last month. That’s the kind of player the Padres are getting – one who can affect the hitters around him by forcing pitchers to keep him in the back of their mind. Fortunately for Soto, Josh Bell is coming with him. Bell has been nearly as valuable as Soto this season, batting .301 with a 3.6 WAR. He’s a major upgrade for the Padres at first base and offers more protection for Soto along with Manny Machado and the soon-to-be-returning Fernando Tatis Jr. Much like the Yankees’ lineup when they paired Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, this Padres lineup will force pitchers to face somebody. There’s no escaping Soto anymore, unless you want to take your chances with another dangerous bat.
Soto is under contract through 2024, so an extension doesn’t have to be a priority immediately. If the Padres want to go that route, we know it’ll likely take a record-setting offer even larger than the 14yr/$340M deal Tatis signed in 2021.
What are the Nationals getting?
Talks between the Nationals and Padres must’ve been fluid until the final hours, because some of the names reported to be involved ended up not being included in the deal. The Padres were able to keep rising prospect Jackson Merrill, and they also held onto former top prospect Adrian Morejon, who recently returned from Tommy John Surgery. Even without those two, the Nationals received a historic amount of young talent.
Two players already on the Padres’ roster are in the deal: MacKenzie Gore and C.J. Abrams. Both former top prospects and high draft picks, Gore was the NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner as recently as early July but struggled mightily last month before going on the IL with elbow inflammation. If he can get healthy, Gore still has frontline starter ability. Abrams, a middle infielder, has an OPS of just .605 through 46 games this season, but he’s just 21 and has torn up the minors at every stop. There’s no reason for him not to start immediately for the Nationals.
Reports indicate the Nationals insisted outfield prospect James Wood be included in the deal. Wood, 19, was a 2nd-round pick a year ago and established himself as a top-3 prospect in the Padres organization. He has a ways to go, but with a .337 AVG, 10 home runs, and a 1.054 OPS at Single-A this season, the Nationals have seen enough to believe Wood could be the prize of this haul. Robert Hassell III is the Padres’ top prospect and has similarly done nothing but hit since he was drafted 8th overall in 2020. Hassell is hitting .299 with 10 home runs and an .846 OPS at Advanced-A Fort Wayne this season, and he ranks as MLB’s No. 21 overall prospect. For all of the talent listed above, Hassell might have a ceiling as high as anyone in this deal.
Jarlin Susana is the wild card of the trade. He’s much farther down the Padres’ prospect rankings, but he doesn’t turn 19 until March and has a 2.45 ERA over the first 29.1 innings of his pro career in rookie ball. On top of a 0.88 WHIP and 13.5 K/9 rate, Susana is already built like a major-leaguer at 6’6” and 235 lbs. The Nationals can afford to take their time with his raw talent while they get the rest of this haul to the big leagues.
While this move might’ve been necessary for the franchise, the amount of talent the Nationals have lost since 2018 is hard to believe. Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and now Soto have all come and gone for a once-downtrodden franchise that again finds itself at the bottom of the standings indefinitely.
San Diego Padres World Series Odds Jump
Odds for the San Diego Padres jumped from around +2200 to just based off the Juan Soto and Josh Bell additions.