Padres obtain Juan Soto from Nationals in blockbuster deal, and more MLB news

By Bernie Wilson and Stephen Whyno
Associated Press

San Diego — The San Diego Padres left no doubt about their desired destination when they added superstar Juan Soto to a lineup anchored by All-Star Manny Machado and about to welcome back flashy Fernando Tatis Jr.

Deep into October. Maybe even November.

General manager A.J. Preller, already known for an innate ability to pull off trades, navigated his way through perhaps one of baseball’s biggest deals ever at the trade deadline when he acquired Soto, the superstar outfielder from the Washington Nationals who is one of the game’s best young hitters, and switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell.

The haul going back to Washington was significant: rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore, first baseman/DH Luke Voit and prospects James Wood, C.J. Abrams, Robert Hassell III and Jarlin Susana.

The Padres feel it was more than worth it.

The Washington Nationals traded Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

“We feel like we’re going to put up a show and it’s going to be really fun to watch,” said Tatis, the star shortstop who is close to returning from a fractured left wrist. “It’s really hype to be over here.”

Could that hype extend to a World Series run?

“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 with prospects and push their team into a higher luxury tax threshold to get the generational superstar.

Soto remains under team control for two more seasons after this one, which made it no sure thing the Nationals would trade him now. The Padres getting him for potentially three playoff runs even absent a new deal made this the peak of Soto’s value.

“Ultimately, we’re looking at it as three years, three pennant races with one of the best hitters, maybe the best hitter in the game,” Preller said. “That’s a long time. … We’ll have time to figure out down the road the long-term commitment. Peter, Eric, have wanted to do that 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 candidate, at that age. I think we were on the same page what it meant for our franchise.”

Machado called Soto and Bell “impact players who are going to come in here and help out this team tremendously. 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 single day, every single year and he showed it in the postseason, showed it in All-Star Games, the Home Run Derby. Just the way he posted up every single day.”

The Padres entered the day 12 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and two games ahead of Philadelphia for the second of three wild-card spots.

Their only playoff appearance since Preller took over in 2014 was a wild-card series win after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. They were then swept in the division series by the Dodgers, who went on to win the World Series.

“We feel like it’s going to be a dogfight. It’s going to be a heck of a pennant race,” Preller said. “We feel we’re a better team, a stronger team. We’re a stronger team, but we know it’s going to be a lot of competition. It’s getting to October, getting to the dance, 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 celebrations, some cheers, some high-fives, maybe some disappointment seeing some of the prospects going out the door.”

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo set a lofty asking price last month after reports emerged that Soto rejected the team’s latest contract offer of $440 million over 15 years.

“We set the bar very, very high, and one team exceeded it and that’s the deal we made,” Rizzo said. “Props to the San Diego Padres. They’re not afraid, and ownership’s not afraid and A.J. Preller’s not afraid, and they were aggressive and we made a deal that you call historical.”

The uncertainty over his future began weighing on Soto, who said after Sunday’s game against St. Louis: “I just want to get it over with and see what’s going to happen. Start over here or wherever I’m at.”

That’ll be in San Diego. Soto and Bell will be introduced at an afternoon news conference and are expected to be in the lineup that night against the Colorado Rockies.

With little protection around him in Washington’s lineup, Soto hit .246 with 20 home runs and 45 RBIs and 91 walks in 101 games.

In 2,435 plate appearances since making his Nationals debut in 2018, Soto is batting .291 with 118 home runs and 357 RBIs. He’s only a couple of years removed from slugging .695 with a 1.185 OPS and .490 on-base percentage — all NL bests.

After contributing to the Nationals’ first championship in franchise history in 2019, Soto hit .351 in 2020 to win the NL batting title. He has been walked more than any other player in major league baseball over the past two seasons. A two-time All-Star, Soto was second in NL MVP voting in 2021.

The massive deal came a day after Preller swung a blockbuster trade to get All-Star closer Josh Hader from Milwaukee and finalized a $100 million, five-year contract for All-Star right-hander Joe Musgrove.

“The atmosphere here is they want to win, and not just go to the playoffs but win a World Series,” Hader said. “That’s a contagious atmosphere to be a part of.”

Voit was a late addition to the deal after San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer declined to waive a no-trade provision. Hosmer was then traded to Boston for left-hander Jay Groome.

After reeling in Soto, Preller also acquired infielder Brandon Drury from Cincinnati. The Padres sent minor league shortstop Victor Acosta to the Reds for the 29-year-old Drury, who has a career-high 20 homers this year.

San Diego began the season with a luxury tax payroll of $229.3 million, just below the first threshold, and the trades push the Padres into tax territory for the second straight season. Soto is owed $5,978,022 for the rest of this season and Bell $3,516,844.

The package of prospects going to Washington is one of the most touted groups ever involved in one deal. Gore and Abrams debuted in San Diego this season after ranking among the sport’s elite minor leaguers, Hassell and Wood are both top 100 prospects according to MLB.com, and Susana was considered the best pitcher available in the 2021-22 international free agent class.

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, power hitter Kyle Schwarber and five others at the deadline last year, and Washington has let Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and others move on in free agency.

The quintet of young players coming from San Diego could join the ones acquired last year — including pitcher Josiah Gray and catcher Keibert Ruiz — as the core of Washington’s next contender.

“We were fortunate that it was a well-rounded trade,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got two pitchers, two outfielders and a shortstop, which fit our needs perfectly.”

More deals

The Red Sox swooped in to grab Hosmer when the Padres first baseman vetoed a move to the Nationals as part of the blockbuster Soto trade.

The Red Sox obtained Hosmer, a 2016 All-Star with Kansas City, along with two minor leaguers and cash in exchange for minor league left-hander Jay Groome. The addition of the four-time Gold Glove winner, who is batting .272 with eight homers and 40 RBIs, helps fill one of the team’s biggest holes so far this season.

As part of the swap, San Diego will send as much as $43.56 million to Boston, offsetting most of the roughly $46 million remaining on Hosmer’s $144 million, eight-year contract, which runs through the 2025 season.

… Joey Gallo’s unproductive tenure with the Yankees ended when he was traded to the Dodgers for minor league right-hander Clayton Beeter.

The 28-year-old outfielder was acquired from Texas on July 29 last year and hit .159 for the Yankees with 25 homers, 46 RBIs and 194 strikeouts in 421 at-bats. He was booed repeatedly by fans at Yankee Stadium, lost playing time in recent weeks to Matt Carpenter and became superfluous when New York acquired Andrew Benintendi from Kansas City last week.

A two-time All-Star, Gallo has a $10,275,000 salary and is owed $3,613,187 for the remainder of the season. He is eligible for free agency after the World Series.

Beeter, 23, was 0-3 with a 5.75 ERA this season at Double-A Tulsa, striking out 88 and walking 35 in 51⅔ innings. He was drafted by the Dodgers with the 66th pick in the 2020 amateur draft and signed for a $1,196,500 bonus.

… The Phillies acquired right-hander Noah Syndergaard, veteran reliever David Robertson and center fielder Brandon Marsh in three trades.

The Phillies sent minor league outfielders Mickey Moniak and Jadiel Sánchez to the Angels for Syndergaard, who returns to the NL East after spending his first six seasons with the Mets.

The 29-year-old Syndergaard went 5-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 15 starts after agreeing to a $21 million, one-year deal with Los Angeles in November.

Marsh is a lefty-hitting, righty-throwing 24-year-old with speed and power projection. He ranked among Los Angeles’ top prospects before debuting in the majors last season, but he has struggled in the big leagues. He’s a .239 hitter in 163 games with 10 homers, 14 stolen bases and a .653 OPS.

Robertson is 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 14 saves in 36 appearances this year. The right-hander finalized a $3.5 million, one-year contract with the Cubs on March 16.

… The Twins stocked up their sputtering pitching staff by acquiring All-Star closer Jorge López in a deal with the Orioles and starter Tyler Mahle in a swap with the Reds, giving up a total of seven prospects.

The 29-year-old López is in the middle of a breakout season for the Orioles, with a sparkling 1.68 ERA and 19 of his 20 career saves. The 27-year-old Mahle is 5-7 with a 4.40 ERA in 19 starts with 114 strikeouts over 104⅓ innings for the Reds.

… The AL wild-card contending Blue Jays added depth to their bullpen by acquiring relievers Anthony Bass (Wayne State) and Zach Pop from the Marlins for shortstop prospect Jordan Groshans.

Bass is 2-3 with 1.41 ERA in 45 games, while Pop has a 2-0 record and a 3.60 ERA over 18 outings.

Groshans, taken 12th overall in the 2018 draft by Toronto, is hitting .250 with one homer and 24 RBIs over 67 games with Triple-A Buffalo.

… The Yankees acquired Gold Glove-winning center fielder Harrison Bader from the Cardinals for left-hander Jordan Montgomery, a surprising deal aimed at improving defense.

A speedy 28-year-old from Bronxville, New York, Bader has not played since June 26 because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Montgomery was 3-3 with a 3.69 ERA in 21 starts. His departure came one day after Frankie Montas was acquired from Oakland to join Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes and Jameson Taillon in the rotation.

… The Royals sent utility man Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays, even though the two-time All-Star was unvaccinated and had to miss Kansas City’s trip to Toronto last month.

It’s unclear whether Merrifield, who has primarily played second base but is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield and across the infield, has received or is planning to get the shot required of all players traveling to Canada.

In exchange, the Royals received speedy outfielder Samad Taylor and right-hander Max Castillo, both of whom could help their big league team as soon as this season.

… The Brewers continued to reshape their bullpen following the departure of four-time All-Star closer Josh Hader by acquiring injured reliever Trevor Rosenthal from the Giants. Milwaukee sent minor league outfielder Tristan Peters to San Francisco.

Rosenthal hasn’t pitched since 2020 due to a variety of injuries but is hoping to make it back later this season. He signed a $4.5 million, one-year deal with San Francisco last month.