The huge trade negotiation holding up player movement for numerous contending teams reached a resolution early Tuesday afternoon as 23-year-old superstar Juan Soto was sent to the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster deal.
First baseman Josh Bell also went to the Padres in the trade, which was first reported by MLB Network. The Nationals received a combination of major-league-ready talent and intriguing prospects in shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood and pitchers Mackenzie Gore and Jarlin Susana.
The Cardinals were in on Soto, the Dodgers were in on Soto, but it was Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller -- a win-now exec if ever there was one -- putting together the most enticing package for the rebuilding Nationals.
Soto joins forces in San Diego with 30-year-old Manny Machado and fellow 23-year-old star Fernando Tatis Jr., who has yet to play this season because of a fractured wrist. Tatis does appear to finally be nearing a rehab assignment.
At 58-46, the Padres currently occupy the second National League wild-card position. They're two games ahead of the Phillies, who are in the third and final wild-card spot, a game ahead of the Cardinals. From a Phillies perspective, it's better that Soto went to the Padres than the Cardinals because San Diego is already ahead of the Phils in the standings. It would be difficult for the Phillies and Padres to meet in the playoffs if they’re the two lowest seeds.
St. Louis was reportedly unwilling to part with young outfielder Dylan Carlson in a Soto trade. He could grow into an above-average everyday outfielder, but if the Cards don't win big over the next few years, their unwillingness to include Carlson -- a .253 hitter with a .744 OPS over his first three seasons -- is going to hang over their heads, especially considering their window with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado is not a long-term one.
Another huge piece of this for the Phillies is that they play the Nationals 11 more times this season. The only NL teams that meet more the rest of the way are Braves-Mets, Dodgers-Padres and Reds-Cubs. The Phils are done with the Padres, so they went from potentially facing Soto in about 50 more plate appearances this season to zero.
At 35-69, the Nats were already the worst team in baseball by four full games with Soto and Bell, who had combined for 35 of the team's MLB-worst 80 home runs.
Washington did seem to do well in this trade to stockpile for the future. Soto wasn't going to sign there long-term, and for him, the Nats brought back not only prospects but players in their early-20s who have already graduated to the majors.
It completes the Nationals' rapid and exaggerated fall from the mountaintop. They won a World Series less than three years ago, a seven-game series in which Soto hit .333 with three homers and seven RBI. They chose the wrong players to pay. They signed Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year, $245 million contract after his dominant 2019 postseason run and he's appeared in eight games in the three seasons since with a 6.89 ERA. Patrick Corbin, owed nearly $60 million the next two years, has been the worst pitcher in baseball since the start of 2021, going 13-31 with a 6.11 ERA. This probably wasn't how they saw things playing out.