Nats look to future core after trading Soto, Bell to SD

August 3rd, 2022

WASHINGTON -- After seven years with the organization, four-plus seasons in the Major Leagues, 565 games, one World Series title, numerous awards and countless displays of generational talent, the Nationals traded star outfielder Juan Soto to the Padres on Tuesday in their second blockbuster Trade Deadline deal in as many years.

“He is a generational player,” general manager Mike Rizzo said ahead of the Nationals' 5-1 win over the Mets on Tuesday night. “He's a wonderful person and a true gentleman of the game. What can you say about Juan Soto that hasn't already been said?”

The eight-player transaction was officially announced two hours before the 6 p.m. ET Deadline. Here are the details:

Padres get: Soto and first baseman Josh Bell

Nationals get:

Hassell immediately becomes the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, with Wood (No.4) and Susana (No. 8) also joining the list.

“I really like the five prospects that we got,” Rizzo said. “They're all high-upside, high-character, high-quality guys that we have scouted for a long time and had a lot of history with. We were fortunate that it was a well-rounded trade.”

A trade had been expected since July 16 after 23-year-old Soto, who can become a free agent following the 2024 season, turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension offer. Rizzo said there was a “limited group” of potential suitors that had the personnel and the needs to make such a massive deal work.

“We did feel that we were not going to be able to extend him,” Rizzo said. “And we felt that at this time, with two-and-a-half years remaining, three playoff runs available to Juan Soto, he would never be at more value than he is today, and that’s what we predicated it on.

“There was no edict to trade him or not to trade him. It was business as usual. Ownership gave me the latitude to make a good baseball deal if I felt it was a franchise-altering deal, and it turned out we got one to our liking and it worked. Kudos to the other side for making it work.”

Inside the Nationals’ clubhouse, the visual of Soto’s belongings remaining in his locker after he had said his goodbyes to the team and departed from the ballpark was a reminder of the presence he left behind.

After signing with Washington as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2015, Soto skyrocketed through the Nats’ system. He compiled a career .291/.427/.538 slash line with a .965 OPS, 569 hits, 399 runs, 119 home runs, 358 RBIs and 464 walks since making his big league debut on May 20, 2018. During that time, Soto was a key member of the 2019 World Series team, won the ‘20 National League batting title, garnered two Silver Slugger Awards, earned two All-Star selections, finished runner-up in the ‘21 NL MVP race and won this year’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby. The young standout stayed grounded as he drew comparisons to baseball legends like Ted Williams.

“He was a big part of our success in ‘19, and those memories will never go away,” manager Dave Martinez, who was emotional several times during his press conference, said. “We talked about them for a while. He’s a great kid, and I wished him all the best moving forward. … What he meant to us as a Nationals family, for the city, for the fans, we should cherish that.”

Only one year ago, the Nationals overhauled their roster at the Trade Deadline by trading away proven stars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to acquire prospects, including Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, in a reboot to build the team around Soto. But two-plus seasons after winning the 2019 World Series, the Nats had the worst record in baseball (35-69) on Tuesday.

Rizzo believes the acquisition of the five prospects puts the team in a better position for success than it was prior to the trade. Now, what had been revered as Soto’s team will take on a new identity. Rizzo noted the future core of the Nationals is projected to include Gray, Ruiz, Abrams, Gore, Luis García and their No. 2 prospect Cade Cavalli.

“The plan has been activated,” Rizzo said. “It's been in place. We see it working. We also see in the big leagues, it's not fun. When we talk about bumpy roads, it's bumpy. I mean, it's bumpy out there, and it's no fun being the GM when you're losing all the time. I've been through it. … It's way more fun to average 92 wins a year for 10 years. Believe me.”

The Nats will embrace the newest young pieces into the future of the organization. That doesn’t mean, though, they will forget the star who earned the nickname “The Childish Bambino.”

“It was definitely a special relationship I had with the kid,” Martinez said of Soto. “I talked to his dad a lot, and I said, ‘I know by birth he’s your son. On the field, he’s my son.'”