baseball

San Diego Padres near trade for Juan Soto and Josh Bell

In what could end up being one of the biggest trades in baseball history, Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is expected to move to the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster deal that both teams tentatively agreed to on Tuesday.

The deal is pending certain factors, including the approval of Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, whose limited no-trade protection Clause 10 allows him to bar a trade, according to the people, who were not yet authorized to speak publicly. Teams of his choice.

Soto, 23, has been the subject of intense trade speculation for weeks. A slugger who carries talent and youth is rare. It was a similar move in recent years when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox, but even in that case, 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 — they rejected the most recent attempt, a 15-year, $440 million contract that was the largest in baseball history — the team began making offers to entertain the outfielder. Soto is set to reach free agency in 2025, so a contending team would be under his control for the next three pennant races even without an extension.

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

Abrams, who made his major league debut in April, and Gore, who recently landed on the major league injured list with an elbow injury, were each once the Padres’ top prospect. Hassell currently holds that title, while 6-foot-7 center fielder Wood is third, according to MLB’s prospect rankings. All (except Hosmer) are 23 or younger.

Soto’s expected addition to the Padres puts them in World Series contention. Trailing the Dodgers by 12 games in the NL West race into Monday, San Diego is in prime position to clinch one of the league’s three wild-card spots. Soto joins a dangerous lineup that includes All-Star third baseman Manny Machado, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (expected to return soon from a wrist injury), All-Star second baseman Jake Cronenworth and the hitting Bell. 301 before trading.

Soto, a two-time All-Star, hit .246 with 21 home runs and an .894 on-base slugging percentage in 101 games for the Nationals in 2022. He won the World Series in 2019, the batting title in 2020 and the Home Run Derby last month. According to Fangraphs, since his rookie season, in 2018, only nine players have accumulated more wins than replacement.

Hosmer, 32, signed an eight-year, $144 million deal with the Padres before the 2018 season, a sign the rebuilding franchise wants to compete. Compared to his time in Kansas City, where he won the 2015 World Series, Hosmer has fared better in San Diego, especially with power hitting. But he emerged as a team leader and was hitting .272 in 90 games for the Padres this season. After this year, he is due $39 million in the final three years of his contract.

Whether he approves the deal — or whether the Nationals and Padres somehow complete the trade — one of the biggest names in baseball is on the move to change the balance of the sport.

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