The San Diego Padres left no doubt about their desired fate when they added superstar Juan Soto to a lineup anchored by All-Star Manny Machado and about to welcome back the flashy Fernando Tatis Jr.
Deep in October. Maybe even November.
General manager AJ Preller, already known for an innate ability to make trades, navigated perhaps one of the biggest baseball deals of all time on trade time when he acquired Soto, the Washington Nationals superstar outfielder who is one of the best in the game. . young hitters and first baseman Josh Bell.
The return to Washington was significant: southpaw rookie MacKenzie Gore, first baseman/DH Luke Voit and prospects James Wood, CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell III and Jarlin Susana.
The Fathers think it was worth it.
“We feel like we’re going to put on a show and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch,” said Tatis, the star who is close to returning from a fractured left wrist. “It’s really hype to be here.”
Could this hype extend to a World Series?
“Ooooh,” said Tatis, who has known Soto since they were teenagers in the Dominican Republic. “We have the talent. We definitely have the talent and we have the team to do it. Now it’s up to us to put the work out there and make it happen.”
That’s why Preller, owner Peter Seidler, and team president Erik Greupner were willing to part ways with potential customers and push their team to a higher luxury tax cap to get the generational superstar.
Soto remains under the team’s control for two more seasons after this one, which has not caused the Nationals to trade him now. The Padres who took him to potentially three playoff runs, even without a new deal, made this the peak of Soto’s worth.
“Ultimately, we’re looking at this as three years, three pennant runs with one of the best hitters, maybe the best hitter in the game,” Preller said. in the future, the long-term commitment. Peter, Eric, they wanted to do this with elite players, elite people, he’s one of those.
“You’re talking about a 23-year-old player who won a World Series, won a batting title, is a perennial MVP contender at that age. I think we were on the same page as to what that meant for our franchise.”
Machado called Soto and Bell “impact players who are going to come in here and help this team a lot. Top of the game right now.”
Asked what made Soto special, Machado paused and said: “I don’t even know how to answer that question. I mean, he’s Juan Soto. He does what he does every day, every year and he showed it in the postseason, he showed it at the All-Star Games, the Home Run Derby. The way he posted every day.”
The Padres entered 12 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and two games ahead of Philadelphia for the second of three wild card slots.
His only playoff appearance since Preller took over in 2014 was a wildcard series victory following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. They were then swept into the division series by the Dodgers, who won the World Series.
“We feel it will be a duel. It’s going to be a pennant race,” Preller said. “We feel like we’re a better team, a stronger team. We are a stronger team, but we know there will be a lot of competition. It’s coming to October, coming to the ball, and see what happens.”
Preller said the teams went through so many versions of the deal that “when we got to the finish line at the end, there was some cheering, some cheering, some high-fives, maybe some disappointment to see some of the prospects walk out the door.”
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo set a high price last month after reports emerged that Soto rejected the team’s last contract offer of $440 million in 15 years.
“We set the bar very, very high, and one team overcame it and that’s the deal we made,” Rizzo said. “Props for the San Diego Padres. They are not afraid, and ownership is not afraid and AJ Preller is not afraid, and they were aggressive and we made a deal that you call historic.”
Uncertainty over his future began to weigh on Soto, who said after Sunday’s game against St. Louis: “I just want to get this over with and see what happens. Start here or wherever I am.”
That will be in San Diego. Soto and Bell will be featured at an afternoon press conference and are expected to be in the lineup that night against the Colorado Rockies.
With little protection around him in the Washington lineup, Soto hit .246 with 20 home runs and 45 RBIs and 91 walks in 101 games.
In 2,435 plate appearances since his 2018 Nationals debut, Soto is hitting .291 with 118 home runs and 357 RBIs. He is just a few years away from slugging 0.695 with a percentage of 1.185 OPS and 0.490 on base – all the best in the NL.
After contributing to the Nationals’ first championship in franchise history in 2019, Soto hit .351 in 2020 to win the NL batting title. He’s been walked more than any other major league baseball player in the last two seasons. A two-time All-Star, Soto ranked second in NL MVP voting in 2021.
The big deal came a day after Preller made a wildly successful trade to get Milwaukee All-Star Josh Hader and finalized a five-year, $100 million contract for All-Star right-hander Joe Musgrove.
“The atmosphere here is that they want to win, and not just go to the playoffs, but win a World Series,” Hader said. “It’s an infectious atmosphere to be a part of.”
Voit was a late addition to the deal after San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer refused to waive a no-trade clause. Hosmer was then traded to Boston by southpaw Jay Groome.
After staggering in Soto, Preller also acquired Cincinnati infielder Brandon Drury. The Padres sent minor league shortstop Victor Acosta to the Reds for Drury, 29, who has 20 homers this year.
San Diego started the season with a luxury tax payroll of $229.3 million, just below the first threshold, and negotiations push the Padres into tax territory for the second straight season. Soto owes $5,978,022 for the rest of this season and Bell $3,516,844.
The package of prospects heading to Washington is one of the most lauded groups ever involved in a deal. Gore and Abrams both debuted in San Diego this season after ranking among the sport’s elite minor leagues, Hassell and Wood are top 100 prospects according to MLB.com, and Susana was named the best pitcher available in the agent class. international free 2021-22.
Soto becomes the latest Nationals player to be traded as part of the organization’s long-term rebuild and with ownership looking to sell the team. Rizzo traded shortstop Trea Turner, ace Max Scherzer, hitter Kyle Schwarber and five others on last year’s deadline, and Washington let Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and others into free agency.
The quintet of young players hailing from San Diego could join those acquired last year – including pitcher Josiah Gray and catcher Keibert Ruiz – as the core of Washington’s next contender.
“We were lucky that it was a full deal,” Rizzo said. “We have two pitchers, two outfielders and a shortstop, which fit our needs perfectly.”
Whyno reported from Washington.
AP baseball writer Ronald Blum also contributed to this report.
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