Juan Soto traded to San Diego Padres; Nationals attract prospects

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The Washington Nationals did what seemed unthinkable on Tuesday: They traded Juan Soto.

Why? That will be debated for weeks and months — not to mention the years and decades in a city that saw Soto, who was still just 23, become a star outfielder and one of the best hitters on the planet. But after Soto turned down a $440 million, 15-year extension offer in early July, the front office reached an eight-man deal that shook Major League Baseball, changed the course of the franchise and further saddened fans. fans who lost one star after another. since the Nationals won the World Series in 2019.

To call it the biggest trade deadline deal of this year is insufficient. With Soto under team control through the 2024 season, the Padres could have him for three playoff runs, giving them a roster built around Soto, Fernando Tatís Jr., Manny Machado and the first baseman. Josh Bell, who the Nationals packed with Soto into the move. .

DC, meanwhile, must watch another local cornerstone leave the club. Bryce Harper, who once won an MVP award with the Nationals, left for Philadelphia after the 2018 season. World Series hero Anthony Rendon joined the Los Angeles Angels shortly after that title run . And last summer, the team sent Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers, beginning a rebuild that general manager Mike Rizzo said took a step forward on Tuesday.

From the records: The Nationals’ deadline fire sale went down in a matter of days. But it was years in the making.

Yes, Soto and Bell’s trade landed a big hit: shortstop CJ Abrams, left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood, first baseman/designated hitter Luke Voit and pitcher right-hander Jarlin Susana. But there is no replacement for Soto or what he represents for the organization since his debut at 19 in 2018. As the Nationals stumbled to another last-place finish, they sold a quick restart around Soto , a unique generation. player and one of the few reasons to watch this summer.

Could the Nats have avoided trading Juan Soto? Your questions, answers.

Without him, however, the Nationals are banking on developing unproven but highly touted players. This is the reality of their side of the blockbuster deal.

In recent days, San Diego has been in the mix for Soto with the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. But on Tuesday morning, the Padres were clearly in the lead with Soto and Bell on the line as part of a forfeit.

Svrluga: The agreement with Juan Soto is heartbreaking. Now hope can begin.

That ends Soto’s four-year run with the Nationals, the team that signed him as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. Soto fulfilled that tenure with a World Series ring, a title National League batting, two Silver Slugger awards, two top-five in MVP voting and a pair of All-Star appearances. In July, he won the Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium, adding to a resume that should belong to a mid-career star, not someone who can’t rent a car without a miner’s fee.

Soto is so decorated and so young, and he’s following in the statistical footsteps of all-time players like Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Trout. Soto combines power and contact ability with an otherworldly plate discipline. That’s why he demanded such a big comeback from the Padres. Baseball writers once spent an offseason comparing him to Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters of all time.

But his consistent dominance is what has complicated his future in Washington. Soto has long been determined to reach free agency after the 2024 season, the only way to see how the free market values ​​him. Still, the Nationals have been pushing to sign him for a long-term extension — a goal that has become even more pressing after the club began rebuilding last summer, shipping eight veterans for 12 unproven players.

MLB Trade Deadline Tracker

First there was a 13-year, $350 million contract offer to Soto in November. After that, Washington upped the numbers in May, then even more with 15 years and $440 million a month ago. Soto did not accept, believing he was worth more than an average annual value of $29.3 million. On July 16, that offer—the largest in MLB history by total contract value—became public, made public with the Nationals’ intention to listen to trade offers for Soto before the deadline.

Without an extension, and with Soto more valuable than he would be in trade talks this winter, the front office has resigned itself to doing what once seemed unthinkable. Treat Juan Soto? Treat the player to some of the biggest hits in club history – Josh Hader’s single in the NL wildcard game; the home run that scored Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the NL Division Series; commanding shots against Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in the World Series – when his best years might be ahead of him, not behind?

On July 1, in an interview on 106.7 the Fan, Rizzo was asked about the possibility of trading Soto. He was defiant, saying the Nationals wouldn’t buy their best player, which was one of the few reasons to come to the stadium. Then everything changed when 15 years and $440 million fell flat. Money often has this effect.

Soto’s journey didn’t begin when he made his Nationals Park debut at age 19. He didn’t start at the club’s academy in the Dominican Republic, where he spent extra hours on Rosetta Stone to perfect his English. It didn’t start when the team first scouted him as a left-handed pitcher who could hit a little.

For Soto, it all started in a living room in Santo Domingo, with his father throwing bottle caps at him which the little boy slammed against the walls. He wanted to be Manny Ramirez or Robinson Canó. During long days at the playground, he would imitate Canó’s swing uppercut, with the other kids calling him “Little Robbie”. Baseball is a tradition in their common country. So, too, dreams of big league stardom.

These dreams brought Soto to Washington; across America in a Nationals uniform; to the heights of the World Series and the depths of a rebuild. Then they’ll take him to San Diego, where a new fan base will cling to each of his drummers. Soto has always been kind of a blinker and you might miss him. So trading him means DC will miss a lot.

Barry Svrluga contributed to this report, which has been updated.

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