The National League pennant race has shifted dramatically with the San Diego Padres on the verge of acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals.
Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, the Padres will send MacKenzie Gore, Robert Hassell III, C.J. Abrams, James Wood, Jarlin Susana and one other Major League player to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Soto and Bell.
MLB Network's Jon Heyman noted that Eric Hosmer was initially in the deal, but per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, he did not waive his no-trade clause for Washington. Hosmer wound up going to the Boston Red Sox, per Feinsand.
Passan later reported Luke Voit was the final piece of the trade going to Washington.
Soto was arguably the most coveted player made available prior to the trade deadline in years. The two-time All-Star is only 23 years old, has two additional years of team control left after this season and has a .291/.427/.538 career slash line.
Even in a down year by his lofty standards, Soto still has a .408 on-base percentage and .485 slugging percentage in 2022.
While Soto is understandably the main focus of the trade, the Padres potentially being able to swap Bell for Hosmer at first base is not insignificant.
Bell is hitting .301/.384/.493 with 14 homers and 57 RBI in 103 games. Hosmer, by comparison, has a .272/.336/.391 slash line in 90 games.
In a season where offensive numbers are down across the board in Major League Baseball, the Padres are attempting to bash their way to a championship in 2022.
Soto and Bell will join a San Diego lineup that enters Tuesday ranked 15th in MLB with 453 runs scored, 19th in OPS (.692) and 24th in homers (91).
Additionally, Fernando Tatis Jr. faced live pitching for the first time on Monday and could go out on a rehab assignment as soon as Friday if his next hitting session goes well.
Assuming there are no injury setbacks, the Padres are going to replace Hosmer (first base), Ha-Seong Kim (shortstop) and Nomar Mazara (right field) with Bell, Tatis and Soto, respectively.
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What would a potential Padres lineup be if they acquired both Juan Soto and Josh Bell? 👀<br><br>According to The Athletic's <a href="https://twitter.com/stephenjnesbitt?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@stephenjnesbitt</a>.<a href="https://t.co/EXa6dbolaO">https://t.co/EXa6dbolaO</a> <a href="https://t.co/DAm0IzT1Ld">pic.twitter.com/DAm0IzT1Ld</a>
That lineup has the potential to score many runs in MLB over the final two months of the regular season. It's also very dangerous in a playoff series, even with the possibility of the New York Mets having Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer at the top of their rotation.
The Padres don't have a lot of wiggle room on their pitching staff if one of their top arms suffers an injury, especially with Gore going back to Washington. (Gore is currently on the injured list with an elbow injury.)
Joe Musgrove has been their ace with a 2.65 ERA in 18 starts. Yu Darvish isn't overpowering hitters like he has in the past, but he's been solid with a 3.24 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 122.1 innings.
Since getting stretched out for a starting pitcher workload on June 29, Mike Clevinger has been terrific with a 2.89 ERA in 37.1 innings over his last six starts. The right-hander has thrown at least six innings in five of those six games.
The Padres shored up the back end of their bullpen on Monday in a different blockbuster trade when they acquired Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers.
Hader appears to have figured things out after a disastrous two-game stretch in which he allowed nine runs on seven hits in 0.1 innings on July 13 and 15. The lefty has allowed just one run with seven strikeouts in his last four appearances.
There aren't many overpowering options for Melvin to use in the back of his bullpen. Luis Garcia and Steven Wilson are the only regulars with at least 30 appearances averaging more than one strikeout per inning.
Hader is averaging 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 34 innings for the Brewers this season.
All of these additions, including Tatis, certainly go a long way to helping San Diego close the gap on the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves in the race to be the best team in the NL.
The Dodgers are still, arguably, the deepest team in MLB. Cody Bellinger is the only regular in the lineup with a below-average OPS+. Tyler Anderson, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin all have ERAs under 3.00.
Walker Buehler, who underwent arthroscopic surgery in June, could return in time for the playoffs. The right-hander could potentially be used as a reliever by virtue of how much time he's missed, but it would give manager Dave Roberts more options to mix and match in a playoff series.
The Mets' chances could hinge on deGrom's ability to stay healthy. He will make his first start in 13 months on Tuesday against the Nationals. The two-time NL Cy Young winner had a 1.08 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 92 innings last season before he was shut down due to injuries.
A healthy deGrom and Scherzer is the best one-two punch in MLB.
San Diego's lineup is strong enough to stand up against any pitcher in the league, but the overall lack of pitching depth could be its Achilles' heel in a postseason series.
Whatever happens by the time we get to October, there's no denying the Padres will be one of the most dangerous teams in a playoff series with Soto and Bell joining the fray.