SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are going for it. They're all in. After the week they’ve had, it's officially World Series or bust in San Diego.
General manager A.J. Preller -- who swung one blockbuster after another in building a contending roster -- completed perhaps his biggest swap yet, hours before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline:
He struck a deal to make Juan Soto a San Diego Padre.
“We feel like we’re better,” Preller said. “Obviously, he’s Juan Soto -- he speaks for himself. What he’s done at 23 years old and the type of talent he is, he’s arguably the best hitter in baseball. That should be a big help for our club. Getting Josh Bell also, offensively another switch-hitter who’s having a great year that can swing the bat, it should help us a lot.”
Preller didn't stop there. The Padres also acquired veteran infielder Brandon Drury from the Reds in exchange for San Diego's No. 6 prospect, shortstop Victor Acosta. The righty-hitting Drury -- who will turn 30 on Aug. 21 and can play third base, second and both corner-outfield spots -- has mashed lefty pitching all season, slashing .309/.346/.670 with nine homers in 97 at-bats. He's hitting .274/.335/.520 with 20 homers in 92 games overall.
The moves come one day after the Padres solidified the back end of their bullpen by trading for closer Josh Hader, further enhancing what they feel is a roster capable of seriously contending for the franchise’s first World Series title in its 54-season existence.
“We definitely have the talent, and we have the team to do it,” said star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. “Now it’s up to us to put the work out there and make it happen.”
Eric Hosmer was initially believed to be headed from San Diego to Washington as part of the deal, but the Padres first baseman declined to waive his no-trade clause. Instead, Hosmer was dealt to the Red Sox in a separate trade, along two prospects and cash for Boston's No. 11 prospect, left-hander Jay Groome, who now holds that same spot in the MLB Pipeline rankings for Padres prospects.
Voit was a late addition to the deal in Hosmer’s place. The rest of the package is littered with supremely talented youngsters, one of the biggest trade hauls in recent memory headed to D.C. It’s worth it, the Padres say. Soto is a generational slugger under contract through the 2024 season. He joins a group in San Diego that already features Manny Machado, Tatis Jr and a deep pitching staff. The Padres sit 12 games over .500, squarely in a Wild Card spot. But, with a serious lack of power, they had spent the past few months in search of an outfield upgrade.
It’s hard to imagine a bigger one than this. The 23-year-old Soto, a perennial MVP candidate who burst onto the scene in 2018 before leading the Nationals to a World Series title in 2019, is a career .291/.427/.538 hitter. He blends elite power with elite plate discipline, like perhaps no other player in the sport.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Tatis, who noted that he and Soto had already exchanged texts. “I feel like we’re going to put up a show. It’s going to be really fun to watch.”
With Soto on board and Tatis approaching a return from his fractured left wrist, here's one guess at what the Padres' lineup might look like:
- Jake Cronenworth, 2B
- Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
- Juan Soto, RF
- Manny Machado, 3B
- Josh Bell, 1B
- Wil Myers, DH
- Jurickson Profar, LF
- Austin Nola, C
- Trent Grisham, CF
The Nationals made Soto available after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension, with Soto turning down the team's 15-year, $440 million offer in July. Soto is eligible to test free agency after the 2024 season. It’s unclear whether the Padres would look to explore a long-term extension that would keep Soto in San Diego beyond that.
Preller, of course, has long coveted Soto. His interest dates back to the 2015 international class, when the Padres nearly signed him as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Instead, Soto signed with the Nats and made his MLB debut in 2018, quickly establishing himself as one of the best hitters in the game. He evoked some of baseball’s all-time greats with his performance at such a young age -- and particularly his performance en route to the 2019 World Series. The Nats' Game 7 victory over the Astros in the Fall Classic came just days after Soto's 21st birthday.
Despite his youth, Soto was unfazed by the big moment when the Nats reached the postseason in 2019. The left-handed slugger hit five homers in those playoffs, including three in the World Series as Washington won the first title in franchise history. The Nats' Game 7 victory over the Astros in the Fall Classic came just days after Soto's 21st birthday.
The Padres will now ask Soto to do the same -- to deliver a World Series to a city long starved for one. The addition of Bell should go a long way toward accomplishing that goal as well.
After Soto, Bell was perhaps the next most prolific slugger available on the trade market, slashing .301/.384/.493 this season. He entered Tuesday tied for third in the National League in multihit games, fourth in on-base percentage, fifth in batting average, seventh in OPS and eighth in weighted runs created plus (wRC+). On top of that, Bell has made significant defensive improvements this year.
“You’re talking about a premier player [in Soto], and then you look at what Josh Bell is doing this year, too -- those are two big bats,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “They will be somewhere in the middle of the order.”
Two days ago, the Padres had a strong roster but a flawed roster. They needed some thump. They needed a closer. They needed upgrades in the outfield and perhaps at first base.
Two days later -- two blockbuster trades later -- they got everything they were looking for, and then some.