In what could end up being one of the biggest trades in baseball history, Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto was set to go to the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster deal the two teams tentatively agreed to on Monday.
The deal, according to people directly familiar with it, who are not yet authorized to speak publicly, is pending on several factors, including the approval of Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, whose restricted trade protection clause allowed him to block a trade up to 10. The teams chosen by him.
Soto, 23, has been the subject of intense trade speculation for weeks. It is rare to send someone so talented and this young. The most similar move in recent years was when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox, but even then Betts was 27 — four years older than Soto.
But after the rebuilding Nationals failed to sign Soto to a long-term contract extension — he rejected his last effort, a 15-year, $440 million deal that would have been the largest contract in baseball history — the team began entertaining offers. Outfielder. Soto is set to hit free agency in 2025, so a contending team would have him under their control for the next three significant seasons, even without an extension.
The Padres, with a deep farm system, agreed to several top young players and prospects in exchange for free agent Soto and first baseman Josh Bell at the end of this season. In the agreed-upon deal, the Padres will send Nationals shortstop CJ Abrams, right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susanna, left-handed pitcher Mackenzie Gore, Hosmer and outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood to the Nationals, according to people with knowledge of the details.
Abrams, who made his major league debut in April, and Gore, who recently went on the major league disabled list with an elbow injury, were once the Padres’ top prospects. Hessel currently holds that title, according to the MLB prospect rankings, while Wood, a 6-foot-7 center fielder, is ranked third. All (except Hosmer) are 23 or younger.
The expected addition of Soto to the Padres would put them in World Series contention. Trailing the Dodgers by 12 games in the NL West race heading into Monday, San Diego is in prime position to clinch one of the league’s three wild cards. Soto will join a dangerous lineup that includes All-Star third baseman Manny Machado, shortstop Fernando Tati Jr. (who is expected to return soon from a wrist injury), All-Star second baseman Jake Cronenworth and Bell, who has been hitting. 301 before trade.
Soto, a two-time All-Star, hit .246 with 21 home runs and .894 on-base percentage in 101 games for the Nationals in 2022. Home Run Derby last month. Since his rookie season in 2018, only nine players have accumulated more wins than replacement, according to FanGraphs.
Hosmer, 32, signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres through the 2018 season, a sign that the rebuilding franchise was eager to start contending. Compared to his time in Kansas City, where he won the 2015 World Series, Hosmer has largely underperformed in San Diego, especially when hitting hard. But he was considered the team leader, striking out .272 in 90 games for the Padres this season. After this year, he will be due $39 million over the final three years of his contract.
Whether or not he approves the deal — or whether the Nationals and Padres still complete the trade — one of the biggest names in baseball appears to be on the move, changing the balance of the sport.