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Juan Soto, Josh Bell Traded to Padres; Nationals to Get C.J. Abrams, More

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 2, 2022

G Fiume/Getty Images

The San Diego Padres acquired star right fielder Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals ahead of MLB's trade deadline Tuesday.

Washington received shortstop C.J. Abrams, pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, outfielder James Wood, pitcher Jarlin Susana and first baseman/DH Luke Voit.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi, ESPN's Jeff Passan and USA Today Sports' Bob Nightengale initially reported details of the deal.

Eric Hosmer, who was reportedly included in the initial deal, did not waive his no-trade clause, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com:

Mark Feinsand @Feinsand

Eric Hosmer rejected the trade to Washington and will not be part of the Soto deal, per source. Now the Padres have less than five hours to figure out what to do with Hosmer, who is owed $39 million from 2023-25.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times had previously reported Hosmer was "not thrilled" about being traded to the Nationals, which meant the Padres would have needed to offer additional incentive to get him to waive his no-trade clause:

Mike DiGiovanna @MikeDiGiovanna

Hearing <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Padres?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Padres</a> 1B Eric Hosmer is not thrilled about being traded to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Nationals?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Nationals</a>, so it will likely take a chunk of money or maybe an additional year added to his already onerous 8-year, $144-million deal (3 years, $39 million left, through 2025) to get him to sign off on deal.

With the Nationals experiencing a rather rapid fall following their 2019 World Series triumph, Soto's contract status became the biggest storyline for the team. The two-time All-Star is due to hit free agency in 2025, and he could be the first player in MLB history to sign a $500 million contract.

Washington lost Bryce Harper to free agency and traded Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers before he could hit the open market. Because Soto is so good and so young, the prevailing wisdom was that the Nats simply couldn't let him get away.

That changed on July 16, when The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported the 23-year-old was being made available in a trade. Per Rosenthal, Washington took the step after Soto declined a 15-year, $440 million offer.

While that would've been the largest contract ever in MLB in terms of overall value, Soto's $29.3 million salary would've been lower than the average earnings for Mike Trout ($35.5 million), Gerrit Cole ($36 million), Francisco Lindor ($34.1 million), Corey Seager ($32.5 million) and Mookie Betts ($30.4 million) among a few others.

Soto wouldn't have even become the highest-paid player on the Nationals since Stephen Strasburg's seven-year contract pays him $35 million each year through 2026.

Rosenthal's report brought a mix of resignation and indignation in the nation's capital.

Chase Hughes @ChaseHughesNBCS

Juan Soto should go down as an Alex Ovechkin-like figure in D.C., one of the greatest athletes in the city’s history. You don’t let generational talents like him go.

JP Finlay @JPFinlayNBCS

This Soto stuff is just so depressing. That parade feels like a different lifetime

Neil Greenberg @ngreenberg

IMO, Nats are paying the price (literally?) for losing their competitiveness. They have nothing to offer Soto except hope. No stars around him, a shaky pitching staff and big divisional spenders offer no guarantees of wins in the future.<br><br>All they can offer Soto is $$$

Alex Kirshner @alex_kirshner

Bailing on the next two years and looking to trade Soto now is some Mickey Mouse, Pittsburgh Pirates-type behavior by a franchise that just won a World Series. Gross

One justification for moving Soto immediately is that the Nationals could at least maximize their return.

The Cleveland Guardians and Boston Red Sox had to accept well below equal value in return for Lindor and Betts, respectively, because they each had only one more year of team control. Soto is guaranteed to be a member of San Diego's roster for at least two-plus seasons, and that extra year can be beneficial in terms of buying more time to hammer out an extension.

This almost represented uncharted territory.

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

Front offices are already having the conversations: What is it going to take to acquire Juan Soto in the wake of him turning down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer from the Nationals? And the answer is: The biggest trade package ever. “A Herschel Walker deal,” one GM said.

Yet as much as this helps Washington's rebuild, simply re-signing Soto probably would've helped more. It also would've cemented a lot of goodwill with the fans, who have even less reason to continue following the team during such a fallow period.

For San Diego, there almost wasn't a price too high to make this trade happen.

For his career, Soto boasts a .291/.427/.538 slash line along with a .966 OPS and a 158 OPS+, per Baseball Reference. Here are the five players closest in similarity score to Soto through his age-22 season: Mike Trout, Frank Robinson, Bryce Harper, Miguel Cabrera and Mickey Mantle.

Soto tore the cover off the ball as a rookie, slugging .517 and hitting 22 home runs in 2018, and he hasn't stopped since. There's no reason to think that won't continue.

Trout is the prime example of how one player can raise his team's ceiling only so high. This acquisition doesn't single-handedly make the Padres the favorites to win the World Series.

But you can't blame San Diego fans for getting a bit ahead of themselves when they forecast how the franchise will perform with Soto in the fold.

The Padres are potentially looking at having their three best players under contract through at least 2028, too. That assumes Soto re-signs and Manny Machado doesn't opt out of his 10-year, $300 million contract.

For decades, the Padres were arguably one of the most anonymous teams in MLB. They weren't consistent winners, nor were they notable for their futility.

Nate Colbert is the franchise leader in home runs, and Eric Show has more wins than any other pitcher in team history. Only two players have gone into the Hall of Fame with the Padres as their primary team: Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman.

However, San Diego has made a concerted effort to turn its reputation around. Signing Hosmer in 2018 hasn't really worked out, but it signaled a new era in which the Padres would be willing to spend on readymade talent. Machado arrived one year later, and then came Fernando Tatis Jr.'s 14-year, $340 million extension.

Trading for Soto is in line with the approach of general manager A.J. Preller, and it sets up San Diego with potentially having the best young combination of hitters in MLB.

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