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Juan Soto, Josh Bell traded to San Diego Padres for 6 players

Matt Johnson

The Washington Nationals have traded outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres just before the MLB trade deadline, receiving a package headlined by outfield prospect Robert Hassell III, James Wood, left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, infielder C.J. Abrams and right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana.

Soto became available after he rejected Washington’s 15-year contract extension worth $440 million which would have made him one of the highest paid MLB players ever. After the reigning Home Run Derby champion rejected the final offer, the Nationals moved forward with a trade.

From the start, the Padres were viewed as the frontrunners to land Soto. A.J. Preller, San Diego’s president of baseball operations, nearly signed as an international free agent in 2015 (The Athletic). Years later, one of the most aggressive decision-makers in baseball finally lands his superstar.

  • Juan Soto stats (2022): .246/.408/.485, 21 home runs, 62 runs scored, 151 wRC+, .894 OPS

Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post first reported Tuesday morning that the Padres and Nationals were making significant momentum towards a deal. After more than a week of negotiations, the two sides struck a deal before the 6 p.m. ET trade deadline.

With both the Nationals and Padres currently playing at home, Soto likely won’t debut with his new team until Wednesday at the earliest. However, it’s another monumental addition for San Diego just a day after it acquired All-Star closer Josh Hader.

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The Padres are adding impact talent at the perfect time and more is coming. Fernando Tatís Jr. is finally swinging a bat, inching towards a rehab assignment that could have him back in the San Diego Padres lineup in August.

Hassell, a 20-year-old outfielder, is rated as MLB Pipleine’s 21st prospect in baseball. Abrams, a top-five prospect in MLB before his debut, offers the tools to become a perennial All-Star shortstop. Wood, a top-five prospect in San Diego’s system ranks as the 88th best prospect in MLB.

Gore, an elite pitching prospect, is currently sidelined with an elbow injury but isn’t expected to miss significant time. Once he is cleared to return, he would immediately slide into the Nationals’ rotation.

After Eric Hosmer exercised his no-trade clause, Washington will receive first baseman Luke Voit from San Diego to complete the deal.

Juan Soto’s influence on Padres’ lineup

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals
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Soto, a perennial MLB MVP candidate, isn’t in the midst of one of the best seasons in his career. From 2019-’21, he averaged a .304/.440/.561 slash line with a 1.001 OPS. However, much of that can be attributed to playing for one of the worst teams in MLB.

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The 23-year-old is arguably the most patient hitter in the batter’s box. Soto’s league-high 20.9% walk rate is 3.4% higher than the second-ranked batter (Max Muncy, 17.5%) and 5.4% higher than the third-highest walk rate (Aaron Hicks, 15.1%). Unsurprisingly, per FanGraphs, Soto also has the fifth-lowest rate of first-pitch strikes faced (52.5%).

Already a World Series champion and two-time selection to the All-MLB First Team before he turns 24, the left-handed hitter has turned things around in recent months.

Juan Soto splitsABsBA/OBP/SLGHROPSISOwRC+
April 7 – May 31181.238/.384/.4489.831.210135
June 1 – Aug. 1161.255/.434/.52812.962.272168

This is a franchise-changing addition for San Diego and he will provide a dramatic improvement to the lineup. Since June 1, the Padres rank 14th in OBP (.318) and 13th in wRC+ (105). The lineup also is below-average against right-handed pitching, placing 17th in wRC+ (98) and 20th in OPS (.688) this season.

  • Juan Soto contract: $17.1 million salary (2022), arbitration-eligible (2023-’23)

For now, it remains unlikely that Soto signs a long-term extension with the Padres. Even if San Diego is willing to offer him the first $500 million contract in MLB history. Represented by agent Scott Boras, it’s in Soto’s best interest to test the open market as a free agent in 2025.

Even if he only remains with the Padres through 2024, San Diego is adding arguably the best hitter in baseball with the ceiling of a future Hall of Famer. Even at the cost of premium prospects, that’s a talent worth adding.

Impact of Josh Bell on San Diego Padres

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Bell is an unexpected wrinkle in San Diego’s moves at the deadline. The switch-hitting first baseman generated plenty of interest, with the New York Mets and Houston Astros among the clubs that pursued him. Instead, he winds up as part of potentially one of the biggest trades in MLB history.

The Padres were never pleased with the results from Eric Hosmer. Entering Aug. 2, San Diego’s first basemen ranked 18th in wRC+ (107), OPS (.727) and 29th in isolated power (.119). Bell changes the outlook for the position dramatically.

  • Josh Bell stats (2022): .301/.384/.493, 14 home runs, 57 RBI, 142 WRC+

A free agent at the end of the season, Bell is slashing .311/.399/.492 with a .890 OPS and eight home runs against right-handed pitchers this year. He’s almost just as dominant against southpaws, boasting a .285/.359/.496 slash and .855 OPS in 137 at-bats.

While he will likely play a majority of games at first base for San Diego, Bell is also capable of playing the corner outfield. What’s important here is that San Diego both landed a superstar to add to its lineup and upgrade at first base in one single move.

When Tatis returns in a few weeks, the Padres will have the lineup, starting rotation and bullpen to compete for the World Series.