After months of rumors and loud whispering, the mega-trade for Juan Soto has finally happened, with the winner being the San Diego Padres. It’s hard to overstate the impact of a trade like this; while stars are always traded, Soto is a very young and already quite accomplished player with generational-type talent, and players in that category do not change uniforms by trade all that often. I’m already tempted to type this piece in all capital letters, damaging the eyes of our esteemed editors; the Padres adding an excellent rental in Josh Bell just makes it an even harder test for my willpower.
The stable of talent sent to Washington is impressive, as it should be. Heading to D.C. are starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore, shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielder Robert Hassell III, outfielder James Wood, pitcher Jarlin Susana, and first baseman Eric Hosmer. For the Nationals, any lingering concerns that someone would have to take Patrick Corbin, thus reducing the value of the return significantly, have now safely evaporated, and they’ll now have to turn to other options there. The Padres even fulfilled Washington’s desire to include a major leaguer who can help the team win games right now in the form of Gore. There are still issues to iron out with Hosmer’s no-trade clause, but for now, we’re going to look at this trade with the assumption that this works out, one way or the other. One possibility is an effort to get a third team into the mix, one that is interested in Hosmer’s services and not on his no-trade list, or at least a team he’d be more willing to waive the clause to join. Who that would be exactly is a tricky question; maybe the Royals?
UPDATE: Hosmer has officially vetoed his move to Washington, though the trade will still go ahead without his involvement. San Diego now has an interesting contract situation to resolve this afternoon.
UPDATE 2: Hosmer is now heading to Boston, per multiple reports, with fellow first baseman Luke Voit now part of the Soto trade in his stead.
UPDATE 3: The deal is now official: Soto and Bell for Voit, Gore, Hassell III, Wood, and Susana.
To wet your whistle — my colleague Ben Clemens will be around shortly with a full rundown of the particulars of this trade, and Eric Longenhagen will run through the prospects — here are some projections which I swear aren’t fan service. (Year-by-year projections for Wood and Susana are unfortunately beyond ZiPS’ scope at this stage of their careers.) Some may be disappointed that Soto’s numbers aren’t quite what they were last year, but his defense looks worse and he’s not quite at his normal level of offense. But considering ZiPS has only “downgraded” his top comp to Carl Yastrzemski, it’s still a great projection!
Much more to come.
Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.
As a Nats fan, I can simultaneously understand that this is one of the biggest prospect packages ever and feel that its not close to enough. Merrill or Zavala. Morejon. I wanted more.
I think the Bell for Hosmer (or equivalent) upgrade is at least worth something. The bottom line is that you had to look at the deal being 2 1/2 years of Soto for the best possible package, unless you could find a trade partner that felt super sure they’d lock him up long-term.
That said, this is a (very bittersweet) win for the Nats, given that the Soto-in-Washington ship had finished sailing.
I totally agree. There really isn’t a prospect deal that would have satisfied me if I were a Nats fan.
Concur. It’s a lot, and yet at the same time not nearly enough and everyone knows it.
It doesn’t appear that Soto wanted to be in Washington. Once the league realizes that, you get less for him than you would have otherwise. The Nats got the most they could for him while he still had multiple years on his contract. And the reason San Diego won the bidding war is presumably because they offered more for Soto than anyone else. If no one is offering any more than that, you can’t get any more than that.
What would you have considered fair value?
-3 years of Chris Sale went for a 65 (Moncada) and 55 (Kopech) + $31M for Moncada’s contract.
-2 years of Matt Olson went for 2 50’s (Langeliers and Pache).
2.5 years of Soto + $39M (Hosmer’s contract) goes for a 60 and 3 50’s*. I know Zips’ projections on the prospects look pedestrian, but projections on prospects are supposed to look that way. Getting 4 of the top 100 gives the Nats a high probability of one of them becoming a perennial 3+ win player and 1 or 2 more of them becoming at least tradeable role players. It would have been nice to get a higher-ceiling 65, but the highest prospect on THE BOARD right now is only a 60 and I don’t think the Orioles want to trade Rutschman or the Mariners Julio Rodriguez.
*40+ Susana is a bit higher for Bell than the Diamondbacks giving up 40 Dawel Lugo for rental JD Martinez back in 2017. I think some of the premium goes for taking Hosmer’s contract which I would view as the prospect value trading for 3 years of a 2-win player — which would probably be something like 2 40+’s and a 40.
I am not certain about this but I am wondering if this is the biggest prospect package ever in major league history. Obviously in retrospect you can reassess it and say the return was bigger. But in terms of how the players were viewed at the time, the standard I always used was Teixeira and this is likely bigger than that.
Biggest prospect hauls (as they were thought of at the time) that I can remember:
Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens (If I remember correctly Sizemore, Lee, and Phillips were all top-20 prospects at the time)
Mark Teixeira for Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Beau Jones
Brian Giles for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Corey Stewart
Joe Carter for Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, and Chris James
JD Drew for Adam Wainwright, Jason Marquis, and Ray King
AJ Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser
I can’t vouch for where they were ranked as prospects at the time, but the trade that I always think of is Glenn Davis for Curt Schilling, Steve Finley, AND Pete Harnisch. Ouch.
That first one is potentially the biggest prospect haul in retrospect. And if they were all considered Top 20 prospects then it would probably be the biggest one overall as seen at the time.
I don’t remember the exact listings of the other one but unless Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga were both considered Top 20 prospects I’m guessing this would slot in between the Colon deal and the others.
Only Phillips was a top 20 prospect at the time of the Colon trade. Baseball America had him at #20 for the 2002 season, which was the year the trade was made. Neither Sizemore nor Lee made the top 100 list. The following year, after the trade, BA has Phillips at #7 and Lee at #30. The year after that, Sizemore was #9.
Yeah gotta go for the Colon trade. Even at the time people were aware that it was a huge haul. I don’t think this one matches up.
Here’s how I would look at this if I were a Nats fan:
I just got the Padres to trade me 4 of their top 5 prospects, plus another top 10 prospect in their system, for a guy hitting .246 who’s been the 4th worst defensive player in baseball this year, who’s tied in fWAR with Willy Adames, and has fewer home runs than CJ Cron. It’s highway robbery for a player who should already be DH’ing at age 23, and who’s closer to Yandy Diaz as a hitter than he is to Freddie Freeman.
Maybe that outlook will help Nats fans sleep tonight.
as a Nats fan in mourning, I appreciate the creativity.
Totally possible. We’ll see