The franchise started in 1969, just another expansion team in fun form that lost 110 games. Five decades passed, there were several Hall of Famers, but there were no championships. Then, after several years of aggressive spending and trading by the front office, Juan Soto took full charge of the team.
This scenario played out for the Washington Nationals in 2019 when they finally won the World Series. The San Diego Padres are hoping for a sequel of their own.
The Padres — cousins of the Montreal Expos who eventually moved to Washington — have never been particularly close to the title. Their last scheduled World Series game was on October 1st. October 25, 1998, Game 7 against the Yankees in the Bronx. They were swept up and the game was never played. Soto was born on this day in the Dominican Republic.
Soto is now a padre and has moved on to the next phase of his career with an almost incomparable start. As his 23-year season is still underway, here are some of the 10 players in history most similar to Soto under 22s. Baseball HandbookCast: Hank Aaron, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Mike Trout.
Soto is so good. That’s why he could confidently turn down a $440 million contract offer from the Nationals last month. That’s why he commanded an exorbitant package of players from the Padres in a deal that rocked the sport on Tuesday.
Washington sent Soto and Josh Bell — the hitting team at first base — to San Diego after first baseman Luke Voight and five young players: pal CJ Abrams, pitcher Mackenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, pitcher Yarlyn Susana, and outfielder James Wood . All five were respected amateurs who have kept their promises so far. No one has played a full season in the Majors yet.
The move leaves the Nationals with next to nothing of their championship team, mostly discouraging reminders of bad investments and false potential. Steven Strasburg earns $35 million but can’t avoid injury. Patrick Corbin, who earns $23.3 million, is aged 15-38 after the World Series. Once a top-five prospect in the sport, outfielder Victor Robles has gone bankrupt.
The team was not ready to win before Soto became a free agent after the 2024 season. By trading Soto now — with three potential postseason runs for the acquiring team — the Nationals have received extraordinary value in return. Perhaps building around Soto would have been the best option, but it was a risky bet with a sell-out team and a history of agent Scott Boras who made a lot of money from free agents.
The Nationals eagerly pursued Boras’ best clients. General manager Mike Rizzo, with the support of the Lerner family, created five playoff teams in the eight seasons leading up to 2019, mostly with the help of Team Boras members such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Soto, Strasbourg and Jason Werth.
But when you play at a high stakes table, you can lose just as much as you win. And now the citizens are losing more than any other team.
The Padres seem to be in for a big fall too – after all. They cannot maintain their spending levels forever, both in dollars and in prospective capital. But their general manager A.J. Preller has spent years preparing for life as a challenger, and now he’s living out his fantasies.
Few of his peers are picking up prospects like Preller, and few are as willing to part with them. Over the past few seasons, Preller has gone through a full rotation of famous players in their best years: Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Sean Manea, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell.
In 2019, he convinced the owner to make third baseman Manny Machado the first $300 million player in baseball history, then gave even more money to pal Fernando Tatis Jr. before last season: $340 million over 14 years. Tatis was just 17 years old when Preller stole him from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for James Shields in 2016.
The deal for Soto and Bell wasn’t even the only headliner for the Padres at the deadline: Josh Hader, a four-time All-Star, arrived in a trade with Milwaukee on Monday, and versatile Brandon Drury (.274 with 20 home runs) joined on Tuesday in a deal with Cincinnati.
The team also sent first baseman Eric Hosmer, who originally traded Soto before resorting to his limited no-trade clause, to Boston for a prospect.
Other contenders acted boldly on time. Houston acquired Trey Mancini and Christian Vasquez for their roster and Will Smith for their bullpen, while Atlanta and Philadelphia added each starter, reliever and outfielder: Noah Sindergaard, David Robertson and Brandon Marsh for the Phillies, as well as Jake Odorizzi, Raizel Iglesias . and Robbie Grossman for the Braves. Yankees, Mets, Toronto, St. Louis. Louis, Seattle, Minnesota and Milwaukee also added a few players.
But no one acted with the same desperation as the Padres, who had been waiting for this moment for years. They endured nine consecutive losing seasons before reaching the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the only season since 1998 to win a playoff round.
Last year started out promising but ended with a bang: 18 games for .500 in August. 10, at the end of the season, the Padres were four games behind. They fired manager Jace Tingler and signed Bob Melvin — a three-time Manager of the Year winner — from Oakland.
Tatis hasn’t played this season since breaking his wrist in a motorcycle accident in the offseason, but he should start rehab soon. Melvin had already led the Padres to the playoffs 58-46 through Monday — and he hasn’t yet included Bell, Soto or Tatis. That’s a lot to boost the league’s average offense, and the Padres already have a top 10 pitcher.
Many other teams can dream of a deep playoff — the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Mets, and Braves all hit Tuesday’s trading deadline with a .600 win percentage or higher. This is the elite of the majors, and the Padres are eager to join them.
Those five franchises, of course, have one more thing the Padres lack: a World Series championship. Soto left the Nationals before his 24th birthday, and there is something sad about that. But now he has a chance to lead the second team to its first ever parade, and this chase will be exciting.