Soto has been informed that he’s being traded to the Padres, a source told ESPN, which means there are other versions of the deal that could be executed if San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer doesn’t remove Washington from his no-trade list.
If the deal is completed, the price is far from cheap. In return, the Nationals are getting a package from the Padres that includes left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielder James Wood, right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana and Hosmer, 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.
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, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals matched up best with Washington’s desire for young talent.
Both 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 may be to the Padres, what matters most is what he does best: hit. And that he does 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, 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.
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 the 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.
Hosmer, 32, is hitting .272 with 8 home runs and 40 RBIs this season. He agreed to a $144 million, eight-year deal with San Diego before the 2018 season, and he is owed about $7 million for the rest of this season and $13 million annually from 2023 to 2025.
The first baseman spent his first seven seasons with the Kansas City Royals and has a .277 career average with 196 home runs and 875 RBIs.
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.
He left after just throwing 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.
Gore’s 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.
The 21-year-old Abrams, who was the sixth overall 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.
The 20-year-old Hassell, who was the eight-overall pick of the 2020 draft, is hitting .299 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs at Class A Fort Wayne.