San Diego Padres agree to trade for Washington Nationals slugger Juan Soto, sources say

ByJEFF PASSAN via via logo
August 2, 2022, 2:09 PM

The San Diego Padres have agreed to a deal to acquire superstar outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman  Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The price for the Padres is far from cheap. Sources told ESPN that the return package from the Padres includes designated hitter Luke Voit, left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielder James Wood and right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana.

The original iteration of the deal could not be executed after San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer refused to remove Washington from his no-trade list and instead was later shipped by the Padres to the Boston Red Sox, sources told ESPN.

Soto, a two-time All-Star who won this year's Home Run Derby, would enrich the Padres with 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.

"It's pretty impressive to have those three types of guys on one team in the same lineup,'' Wil Myers, the Padres' longest-tenured player, told reporters Tuesday. "Excited to see that trio, hopefully in the next week or two.''

Tatis, who is close to returning from a broken left wrist, could be 10 days to two weeks away from being added to the active roster.

The path from Soto turning down a recent 15-year, $440 million contract offer from the Nationals to agreeing 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.

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.

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's 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.

In Soto, they would 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.

He 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, expected to carry the mantle for the organization.

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 has a career .266 batting average with 127 home runs and 454 RBIs.

Bell, 29, is signed through this season.

News of the agreement 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 35-69 and had lost four of five games through Monday.

The 31-year-old Voit, who also plays first base, 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 New York 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 appearance 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 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.

Abrams, who is 21 and was the No. 6 pick of the 2019 draft, 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, who is 20 and was the No. 8 pick of the 2020 draft, 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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