Nats set to send Juan Soto to Padres, a seismic move for the sport and franchise


The Washington Nationals have a deal in place to send Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation. Josh Bell is in the trade, too, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, who say the Nationals would receive a package that includes top young players in shortstop C.J. Abrams, left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore and outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood.

The trade would further decimate the Nationals’ major league roster, provide pieces for a potentially brighter future and give the Padres a World Series-caliber lineup built around Soto, Fernando Tatís Jr., Manny Machado and Bell.

As of 12:15 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, Soto had been notified that he was headed to San Diego, according to a person familiar with the team’s contact with the 23-year-old star. The Nationals had also called up first baseman Joey Meneses and Josh Palacios from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings, a way to fill Soto and Bell’s roster spots for a 7:05 p.m. matchup with the New York Mets. But around noon, with six hours until the deadline, the trade was not finalized because the two sides were still hammering out details.

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One is whether veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer will waive his no-trade clause and approve a deal to the Nationals. Washington is on Hosmer’s no-trade list, according to a person familiar with his contract terms, and the package could shift a bit if he does not consent to the move. In recent days, they were in the mix for Soto along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. But by Tuesday morning, the Padres were a clear front-runner with Soto and Bell in play as a package deal.

Bell will leave Washington after less than two seasons, a stretch highlighted by his career numbers in 2022. But Soto’s pending departure is the true gut punch for the franchise and its fans, coming a year and three days after the Nationals sent Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the Dodgers. The Padres will soon visit Nationals Park for a three-game series that starts on Aug. 12.

Svrluga: The Juan Soto deal is heartbreaking. Now the hope can begin.

This ends Soto’s four-year run with the Nationals, the team that signed him as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. Soto, still only 23, has packed that tenure with a World Series ring, a National League batting title, two Silver Slugger awards, two top-five finishes in MVP voting and a pair of all-star appearances. In July, he won the Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium, adding to a résumé that should belong to a midcareer star, not someone who can’t rent a car without underage fees.

Soto is just so decorated and so young, and he’s following the statistical tracks of all-time players such as Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Trout. Soto pairs power and contact ability with otherworldly plate discipline. That’s why he demanded such a large return from the Padres. Baseball writers once spent an offseason comparing him to Ted Williams, one of the best hitters ever.

But his steady dominance is what complicated his future in Washington. For a long while now, Soto has been set on reaching free agency after the 2024 season, the only way to see how the open market values him. Still, though, the Nationals made efforts to sign him to a long-term extension — a goal that became even more pressing after the club began its rebuild last summer, shipping out eight veterans for 12 unproven players.

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First there was a 13-year, $350 million contract offer to Soto in November. After that, Washington upped the figures in May, then even more with 15 years and $440 million a month ago. Soto didn’t accept, feeling he is worth more than an average annual value of $29.3 million. On July 16, that offer — the largest in MLB history by total contract value — became public, was publicized along with the Nationals’ intentions to listen to trade offers for Soto before the deadline.

Without an extension, and with Soto more valuable that he would be in trade talks over the winter, the front office was resigned to do what once seemed unthinkable. Deal Juan Soto? Deal the player with some of biggest hits in club history — the go-ahead single off Josh Hader in the NL wild-card game; the score-knotting homer off Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the NL Division Series; towering shots against Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in the World Series — while his best years could be in front of him, not behind?

On July 1, in an interview on 106.7 the Fan, General Manager Mike Rizzo was asked about the possibility of trading Soto. He was defiant, saying the Nationals would not shop their best player, who was one of the few reasons to come to the ballpark. Then everything changed when 15 years and $440 million fell flat. Money often has that effect.

Soto’s journey didn’t start when he debuted at Nationals Park at 19. It didn’t start at the club’s academy in the Dominican Republic, where he would spend extra hours on Rosetta Stone to perfect his English. It didn’t start when the team first scouted him as a left-handed pitcher who could hit a bit.

For Soto, all of this began in a living room in Santo Domingo, his dad tossing him bottle caps that the small boy smacked against the walls. He wanted to be Manny Ramirez or Robinson Canó. In long days at the playground, he mimicked Canó’s uppercut swing, the other kids calling him “Little Robbie.” Baseball is tradition in their shared country. So, too, is dreaming of major league stardom.

Those dreams have taken Soto to Washington; to around America in a Nationals uniform; to the highs of the World Series and the depths of a rebuild. With this deal, they will take him to San Diego, where a new fan base will hang on every one of his at-bats. Soto has always been a blink-and-you-might-miss-it sort of player. Trading him, then, means D.C. will miss a lot.

Barry Svrluga contributed to this report, which has been updated.

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