After three whirlwinds of three weeks, it is Juan Soto’s turn. The Washington Nationals reportedly traded their young superstar with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday along with Josh Bell, the first baseman, hours before the MLB trade deadline at 6 p.m., Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser confirmed. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal.
With the blockbuster deal, Padres director AJ Preller adds two of the best hitters available and creates the potential for a Soto-Manny Machado-Fernando Tatis Jr. lineup combo for at least three playoff runs. Going back to the Nationals is a treasure trove of young players and prospects. The pack consists of young shortstop CJ Abrams and starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore, who impressed as a rookie this season. Also included are top prospect Robert Hassell III, rising prospect James Wood and several others.
There is another major league involved. Multiple reports indicate: that is first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has three years and $39 million left on his contract after this season.
Hosmer, who has a limited non-trade clause, is reportedly required to approve the deal. This usually means that the player has to work out some sort of compensation. Both Hosmer and Soto are represented by Scott Boras.
Those young players will be part of a full-scale rebuilding project in Washington, while Soto will go to a team that fully intends to use him for a playoff run this year, and possibly for more than a decade. The deal ends a saga played fast forward that saw Soto go from untouchable franchise face to the trading bloc to “member of the San Diego Padres” in less than a month.
A 23-year-old slamming demigod whose one and only ancestor is Ted Williams is now going to play in the hometown of the Splendid Splinter.
Will Juan Soto sign an extension?
With Soto now in a different uniform, the new question is how long will he stay in that uniform.
Soto was in control of the team for another 2 1/2 years before reaching free agency after the 2024 season. He has already turned down a $440 million 15-year renewal offer from the Nationals, which would have been the largest contract in MLB history by total cost, though the average annual value of $29.3 million was below what his elite MLB colleagues earn.
The Nationals fired Soto because they didn’t think they could keep him long-term, and now it’s up to Preller and the Padres to solve the same problem. With Scott Boras as his agent, it seems entirely possible that Soto is waiting to enter the open market before deciding on his future.
All signs point to Juan Soto being a future Hall of Famer
The driving force behind all Soto speculation is the obvious fact that few, if any, MLB players have entered the trading market with a resume like Soto’s at an age like Soto’s.
In five MLB seasons, Soto has hit .291/.427/.538 with 119 home runs, a clip unheard of for a player his age this millennium. His plate discipline is elite of elite, and he has found his strength enough to win this year’s Home Run Derby.
Add his big hit in the 2019 Washington playoff run, and you’ve got a man with virtually no red flags and historic potential.
This season has been a bad year for Soto, but while he comes under .250, his 158 OPS+ – a park-adjusted measure of overall offensive performance – is still one of the best in MLB. Players like these come around once in a generation and almost all of them hear their name in Cooperstown (barring extenuating circumstances).
The only question with Soto is how much better he can get.
How the Nationals Finally Traded Juan Soto
Rewind all the way to 2019. The Washington Nationals are World Series champions. They may not have Bryce Harper anymore, but they still have a collection of All-Stars like Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner, Patrick Corbin and of course Soto.
Soto was 20 that season and already an elite batter. Any MLB club serious about competing would want him on their team, and it would make sense if the Nationals went all out to sign him for the long haul. So why are they swapping it?
Well, short answer, the Nationals have been a disaster since they hoisted that trophy. Rendon left in free agency. Strasburg returned with a new contract, but has since made eight starts and is now dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome, often a death knell for pitchers. Corbin may have become the worst starting pitcher in the league. The team was bad enough that it traded Scherzer and Turner on last year’s trade deadline instead of trying to keep them free.
Meanwhile, no homegrown stars have emerged to take the slack, as the Nationals have pretty much smelled every first-round draft pick from 2013 to 2019.
The Nationals have gone from 93 wins (and a ring) in 2019 to a pace of 70 wins in the shortened 2020 season, 65 wins in 2021 and now a pace of 56 wins this season. It will be years before they are back in the playoffs, and Soto wouldn’t have helped them much if he left after the 2024 season.
So the trade speculation was inevitable for Soto this season as the Nationals looked like a container fire again. Things took a turn for the worse when Soto turned down that $440 million contract, and now he’s moving to a new team, as his old one wouldn’t live up to his price and had little benefit from having him on short notice.