Sources: Nats agree to trade Soto, Bell to Padres

    ESPN MLB insider
    Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”

The San Diego Padres have agreed to a deal to acquire superstar outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

In return, the Nationals are getting a package from the Padres that includes left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielder James Wood, right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana and another major league player.

Soto, a two-time All-Star who won this year’s Home Run Derby, would enrich the Padres with a historically talented 23-year-old hitter whose early-career peers are almost all Hall of Famers. He will benefit greatly from joining shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and third baseman Manny Machado near the top of the Padres lineup.

The path from Soto turning down a recent 15-year, $440 million contract offer from the Nationals to agreeing to a deal with the Padres was quick and linear. The Nationals did not want to raise their offer. San Diego, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals matched up best with Washington’s desire for young talent.

Both interested teams and observers alike regarded the opportunity to trade for a player of Soto’s caliber as a once-in-a-generation event, though most teams did not have the requisite talent to enter the fray for a star who doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2024 season.

As alluring the club control may be to the Padres, what matters most is what he does best: hit. And that he does about as well as anyone in the game. While Soto’s batting average this season of .246 is well below his .291 career average, he leads the major leagues in walks, is among the leaders in home runs (21).

He also is coming off a big July when he hit .315/.495/.616 with six home runs.

In Soto, they would receive a hitter with an uncommon eye and power — the golden combination that could lead a man to turn down $440 million. Since debuting at age 19, Soto has been a revelatory hitter, slashing .291/.426/.537 with 119 home runs, 358 RBIs, 464 walks and 414 strikeouts.

He helped lead the Nationals to their first championship in 2019 and, even as Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer and Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon left via free agency or trades, Soto remained, expected to carry the mantel for the organization.

Bell is hitting a career-high .301 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs in his second season with the Nationals. He spent his first five MLB seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, getting an All-Star nod in 2019, and has a career .266 batting average with 127 home runs and 454 RBIs.

Bell, 29, is signed through this season.

The Nationals own the majors’ worst record at 35-69 and had lost four of five games through Monday.

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