11:36am: Hosmer is “not thrilled” about the idea of waiving his no-trade protection to go from a contender to a rebuilding club, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Bowden, meanwhile, adds that San Diego would remain on the hook for Hosmer’s salary over the 2023-25 seasons if he were included in the deal, with the Nationals only picking up the remainder of this year’s money.
11:03am: Hosmer has 10-team no-trade protection and has yet to sign off on the deal, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Dennis Lin of the Athletic confirms the Nationals are one of the clubs to which Hosmer can block a trade. However, Heyman notes there’s a general belief they’ll find a way to get the deal across the finish line regardless.
10:47am: The Padres and Nationals are in agreement on a deal that sends Soto and first baseman Josh Bell to San Diego, Morosi reports. San Diego will send back rookie shortstop C.J. Abrams, top outfield prospect Robert Hassell III, right-hander Jarlin Susana and top outfield prospect James Wood, according to Morosi.
10:43am: The Padres are “on the verge” of acquiring Juan Soto from the Nationals, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. He adds that talks are in their “final stages.” Bob Nightengale of USA Today first reported the teams were nearing agreement on a deal.
It’s a stunning blockbuster, one of the most seismic trades in major league history. There’s almost no recent precedent for a player of Soto’s caliber being dealt, particularly not with multiple seasons of remaining club control. The lefty-hitting outfielder is among the game’s top handful of players, a superstar performer who has amazingly yet to turn 24 years old. Soto debuted in the big leagues as a 19-year-old in 2018, having played just eight games above A-ball at the time. Even holding his head above water would’ve been impressive in that context, but Soto immediately stepped into the majors as of the league’s best hitters.
Soto hit .292/.406/.517 in 116 games as a rookie. He’s followed that up with successively elite offensive seasons, looking well on his way to being an all-time great hitter. Between 2019-21, Soto hit .304/.440/.561. He averaged more than 25 home runs per year (even with the 2020 schedule being dramatically shortened) and drew plenty more walks than strikeouts. Soto finished in the top ten in NL MVP balloting each season, including a runner-up finish last season. He was an integral part of the Nationals World Series winner in 2019, following up a .282/.401/.548 regular season performance with a .277/.373/.554 showing during that year’s postseason. Along the way, Soto claimed a pair of Silver Slugger Awards and was selected to the All-Star Game in 2021.
The 2022 campaign hasn’t been Soto’s best, but a “down” season by his standards would be a career year for most players. Through 436 plate appearances, he’s hitting .246/.408/.485. He’s drawn walks in an MLB-best 20.9% of his trips to the dish while striking out just 14.2% of the time. He’s tied for 17th in the majors with 21 longballs, and he’s third among hitters with 200+ plate appearances in on-base percentage (.408). That’s in spite of a .243 batting average on balls in play that’s easily the lowest mark of his career, nowhere close to .330 career mark he carried into the season. The lesser ball in play results do reflect a slight downturn in his batted ball quality, but Soto’s expected batted ball metrics and exit velocities are better than his actual batting average and slugging output might suggest.
It wasn’t long ago that trading a hitter of this caliber would’ve seemed unfathomable. The Nationals are less than three years removed from their aforementioned championship. Even after a last place finish in 2020, Washington was in win-now mode heading into 2021. A swoon just before last summer’s trade deadline dropped them near the bottom of the National League and kicked off a major reboot that saw stars like Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber dealt away at last summer’s deadline. All those players were in their final season and a half of remaining control, however, while Soto was still more than three years from free agency at the time. There was seemingly never any consideration on the Nats part to dealing him either last summer or over the offseason.
That remained the case just two months ago, when Washington general manager Mike Rizzo flatly declared the club was “not trading” Soto. That was before the club’s latest (and ultimately final) attempt to sign him to a long-term deal. After Soto rejected a 13-year, $350MM extension offer last offseason, the Nationals reengaged with his representatives this summer. Soto again turned down the Nationals overtures — this time a 15-year, $440MM proposal — and the club pivoted to the trade market.
More to come.