Rizzo felt Nats were ‘not going to be able to extend’ Soto

Juan Soto

WASHINGTON — The Nationals pulled off a stunning move ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, sending Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres for a package of six players that included first baseman Luke Voit, shortstop C.J. Abrams and left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore.

While the decision to trade Bell was an expected one given the first baseman’s expiring contract and the Nationals’ last-place standing in the NL East, moving on from Soto when he still had two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract was far more difficult. The 23-year-old was the undisputed face of the franchise and building a resume that resembled that of a generational superstar.

The Nationals attempted to sign Soto to an extension this season, making him three separate offers throughout the spring and summer. Their final attempt came in at 15 years and $440 million, but Soto declined due to the relatively low average annual value for a player of his caliber and Washington’s lack of clarity on its ownership situation.

After that, Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo decided to put Soto on the trade block and see if any teams would meet the high asking price.

“We did feel that we were not going to be able to extend him,” Rizzo said in a press conference at Nationals Park shortly after the trade was announced Tuesday afternoon. “We felt that at this time, with two-and-a-half years remaining — three playoff runs available of 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.”


Washington did acquire a haul. San Diego shipped its first-round picks from the 2020 (outfielder Robert Hassell III), 2019 (Abrams) and 2017 (Gore) MLB Drafts, a pair of high-upside Single-A prospects in outfielder James Wood (2021 2nd-round pick) and right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana (international signee), as well as Voit, a right-handed power bat signed through 2024.

The Nationals could have held onto Soto and given the next ownership group — assuming the Lerner family sells the team — a chance to sign him. The max price point now might not have been the same in six months. However, Rizzo said Washington’s ownership situation had no effect on his decision-making process. He made the deal he felt made the most baseball sense and helped the club accelerate its path back to contention.

“We had to get the right deal or we weren’t gonna do the deal,” Rizzo said. “We set the bar very, very high and one team exceeded it and that’s the deal we made. Props to the San Diego Padres. They’re not afraid. Ownership is not afraid. AJ Preller is not afraid. They were aggressive and we made a deal that you call historical, I call it a good deal for the San Diego Padres and the Washington Nationals at this time in both our franchises’ history.”