'Breathless' over Soto deal, execs react to Trade Deadline

August 3rd, 2022

When the dust had settled in the hours following Tuesday evening’s Trade Deadline, an American League general manager offered up a thought about the flurry of moves that had taken place throughout the day. 

“It felt like there were fewer ‘impact’ moves this Deadline,” the GM said. “Then again, when a team acquires Juan Soto, maybe that counts for a whole bunch of ‘impact’ moves.” 

The GM wasn’t alone in his assessment. 

“Wow,” another AL GM said. “Highest impact trade I’ve ever seen. [Nats GM Mike] Rizzo did a great job maximizing the return.”

Despite the fact that the Padres and Nationals agreed to a deal for Soto roughly six hours before the Deadline, the trade of MacKenzie Gore, C.J. Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, Jarlin Susana and Luke Voit for Soto and Josh Bell was the one that people around the game couldn’t stop talking about.

“I’m still breathless by the Soto trade,” an AL executive said. “The Nats insisted they were going to get an unprecedented return or not move him -- and they got an unprecedented return. Have to give [Padres GM] A.J. [Preller] credit for collecting that kind of talent and also for being bold enough to trade it away. They have as much star power as anyone I can remember.”

“The Soto/Bell acquisition was pretty much the primary impact move,” another AL executive said. “The Padres gave up a lot of value, but it’s really big add to an already good club.” 

There wasn’t much negative reaction to the Padres’ stunning Soto acquisition, though two executives wondered if the decision would hamper San Diego’s ability to maintain a balanced team. 

“San Diego is in danger of entering Angels territory within the next few years,” an NL executive said. “A strong top-third of the roster with below-average depth behind it due to a series of system-busting trades.” 

“How can a small-market team like San Diego spend that much and trade away that much of their future?” an AL executive said. “Are all other teams missing out on some strategy?” 

Adding Soto and Bell to a lineup that already includes Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. (who is slated to return from injury in the near future) gives the Padres a star-studded lineup that should compete with any other in the game. Oh yeah, San Diego also added four-time All-Star reliever Josh Hader, a move that has gone mostly overlooked in the wake of the Soto acquisition. 

“A.J. has not met an All-Star-caliber player that he has not pursued,” added another AL GM.

In addition to the Padres, a number of the league’s top teams filled needs prior to the Deadline, bolstering their rosters for the stretch run.

The Yankees added Frankie Montas, Andrew Benintendi, Harrison Bader, Scott Effross and Lou Trivino, the Astros acquired Christian Vázquez, Trey Mancini and reliever Will Smith, while the first-place Twins brought in Tyler Mahle, Jorge López and Michael Fulmer to strengthen their pitching staff.

“I loved what the Twins did,” an AL executive said. “López and Fulmer will really help them and Mahle is a huge addition. They gave up fair -- but not unreasonable -- returns. Great job by them.”

In the NL, the Braves acquired Raisel Iglesias, Jake Odorizzi and Robbie Grossman, while the Dodgers traded for Chris Martin and Joey Gallo.

“If the standings stay the way they are today, can you imagine what a Padres-Braves Wild Card postseason series will look like?” said an AL executive. “Talk about firepower.”

Even the Phillies, who are looking to secure their first trip to the postseason since 2011, made moves to add Noah Syndergaard, David Robertson and Brandon Marsh.

“I thought the best teams all got better and the gap between them and the others widened quite a bit,” an NL executive said. “The postseason is going to be a blood bath.”

Among the teams that most impressed a number of executives, the Yankees, Twins, Mariners and Braves received multiple mentions after the Deadline passed.

“The Yankees made some very nice adds that fortified their club,” an AL executive said. “The Montas and Bader adds were really good for them.”

“I thought the Yankees did very well,” another AL exec said. “They gave up volume, but stayed away from the very top of their system.”

Two teams that sold off pieces received positive reviews: the Orioles and Reds. Despite being in the thick of the AL Wild Card picture, Baltimore traded Mancini and Lopez in separate deals, bringing back six prospects in the process.

“Baltimore did really well; two months of Mancini for [Seth] Johnson and [Chayce] McDermott is great value,” an AL GM said. “Trading a former waiver claim in Lopez at high value for a quality starting prospect is a good job.”

The Reds sold off a number of notable pieces including Luis Castillo, Mahle, Brandon Drury, Tommy Pham and Tyler Naquin, bringing back a haul of prospects led by Noelvi Marte (Cincinnati’s new No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline and No. 17 in the overall Top 100), Edwin Arroyo (No. 6, No. 92 in the Top 100) and Spencer Steer (No. 7), inserting seven new names into the club’s Top 30 prospect list.

“Despite being sellers, the Reds did really well to remake their farm,” an AL executive said. “Between their trades over the last six months and this year’s Draft, they’ve gone from a middle-of-the-pack system to probably in the Top 5.”

There were some teams that left executives scratching their heads following the Deadline, primarily for their lack of moves.

“With as many impact players as were moved, it was surprising to see the number of others who weren’t that likely would have been included on a pre-Deadline power ranking of trade candidates,” an AL executive said.

That list included the Cubs’ Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, the Giants’ Carlos Rodón and Joc Pederson, and the Red Sox’s Nathan Eovaldi.

“Retooling in markets like San Francisco and Boston must be extremely challenging,” an AL GM said. “Between those two teams, they had numerous premium, expiring assets that did not move at the Deadline.”

Although the consensus was that this was a seller’s market, another AL GM believes both buyers and sellers were “very disciplined” during negotiations.

“Buyers would not overpay to improve their teams,” the GM said. “Sellers were willing to hold players rather than simply accept the highest return if it did not reach the threshold they felt they needed to meet.”

Still, while teams like the Reds, Nationals and Orioles were able to parlay players into a number of blue-chip prospects, other clubs chose to stand pat, leaving them in the same position they were prior to the Deadline.

“I’d say there were some very interesting decisions by non-competitive clubs to hold players who are unlikely to be part of their next competitive team,” an NL executive said. “The only ‘losers’ on the day are the fans of those clubs who failed to improve either their long- or short-term outlook.”