San Diego Padres nearly traded for Juan Soto and Josh Bell

In what could have ended as one of the biggest deals in baseball history, Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto was expected to go to the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster deal both teams tentatively agreed to on Tuesday.

The deal, according to people directly familiar with it, who are not yet authorized to speak publicly, is pending the approval of several factors, including the approval of Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, whose limited trade protection clause allowed him to block the deal to 10 teams of your choice.

Soto, 23, had a leg the subject of intense trade speculation for many weeks. It’s rare that such a talented and young slugger is taken away. The most similar move in recent years was when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox, but even so, Betts was 27 years old, four years older than Soto.

But after the rebuilding Nationals failed to sign Soto to a long-term contract extension — he turned down the latest offer, a 15-year, $440 million contract that would have been the biggest contract in baseball history — the team began considering offers to extend the long-term contract. contract. outfielder. Soto is slated to become a free agent in 2025, so the opposing team will keep him under control for the next three pennant races even without an extension.

The deep-farmed Padres have agreed to fork out some of their best young players and prospects in exchange for Soto and first baseman Josh Bell, a free agent at the end of this season. In the deal, according to people familiar with the details, the Padres will send Nationals shortstop CJ Abrams, right-handed pitcher Jarlyn Susana, left-handed pitcher Mackenzie Gore, Hosmer, and outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood.

Abrams, who made his major league debut in April, and Gore, who was recently placed on the major league injured list with an elbow injury, were once top prospects for the Padres. Hassell currently holds the title, according to the MLB Prospects, with Wood, a 6-foot-7 center fielder, in third place. All (except Hosmer) are 23 or younger.

The expected addition of Soto to the Padres will see them qualify for the World Series. Trailing the Dodgers by 12 games in the NL West race through Monday, San Diego is in the best spot to get one of three wildcard spots in the league. Soto will join a dangerous lineup that includes All-Star third baseman Manny Machado, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (who is expected to return soon from a wrist injury), All-Star second baseman Jake Cronenworth and Bell, who was hitting .301 prior to the trade.

Soto, a two-time All-Star, hit .246 with 21 home runs and .894 on base plus a hitting percentage in 101 caps in 2022. He won the World Series in 2019, the title in 2020 and the Home Run Derby last month. Since his debut season in 2018, only nine players have amassed more wins than a substitute, according to FanGraphs.

Hosmer, 32, signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres ahead of the 2018 season, a sign that the rebounding franchise is looking to get in the fight. Compared to his time in Kansas City, where he won the 2015 World Series, Hosmer largely underperformed in San Diego, especially on power shots. But he was considered a team leader and has hit .272 in 90 games for the Padres this season. After this year, he will be owed $39 million for the last three years of his contract.

Whether he approves the deal — or whether the Nationals and Padres go through with the deal anyway — one of the biggest names in baseball seems to be on the move, rebalancing the sport.