Perspective: No matter how you slice it, the Nationals won the Soto Trade
Only a year later the Washington Nationals are on track in developing a core of young prospects, while the San Diego Padres are weighing what to do next with Juan Soto.
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I recently came across an article while scrolling through my news feed. It discussed the future of Juan Soto in San Diego and prompted me to ponder the thought that the Nationals might have already come out on top in the Juan Soto trade with the Padres.
Let me take a moment to explain why I hold this perspective. But before I delve into my reasoning, let's rewind to the summer of 2022. Just over 14 months ago, the Washington Nationals found themselves in last place in the NL East.
A year prior, they had traded Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a bundle of prospects, officially marking the start of a "re-tooling" phase. The Nationals' farm system was in dire need of rejuvenation, and the team needed fresh prospects to fortify their talent pipeline.
During this period, the Washington Nationals extended a life-changing, generational contract offer to Juan Soto, a 15-year, $440 million deal.
Fast forward to the present, and we see Juan Soto having a remarkable season with the San Diego Padres. He emerged as arguably the Padres' best position player, boasting a .275/.410/.519 slash line (158 OPS+), 35 home runs, 109 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases. Notably, Soto led the majors in walks for the third time in his career and played in all 162 games for San Diego. However, the key point here is that Soto is just one year away from free agency. As a result, the Padres are faced with the decision of extending his contract or potentially trading him in the upcoming offseason, keeping both options open. This is where the Nationals appear to have won the trade.
The Nationals recognized the need for a "re-tooling" phase and the urgency to refresh their farm system. Their decision to offer Soto what was, in my opinion at the time and still is, a reasonable contract, appears prudent. The Nationals traded Soto to a team that already had several lucrative contracts on their books, including those of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Xander Bogaerts. At the time of the trade, the Padres seemed to be making an all-in move, hoping that the addition of Soto for at least a couple of years would lead them to a World Series victory.
However, this hasn't been the case. The Padres are coming off a disappointing season in which they failed to make the playoffs and appear to be heading in the wrong direction, following their defeat to the Phillies in the 2022 NLCS. Moreover, they may need to replace two stars and important positions as both Blake Snell and Josh Hader are heading for free agency this winter.
On the flip side, the Washington Nationals received a substantial haul of prospects by trading Soto and Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres at the 2022 trade deadline. They acquired outfield prospects James Wood and Robert Hassell III, pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Jarlin Susana, and shortstop CJ Abrams.
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Before the Nationals traded Juan Soto, their farm system ranking was as high as #22 according to MLB Pipeline, right after the 2021 trade deadline when they acquired Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, as reported by Talk Nats at the time.
Following the selection of Dylan Crews as the second overall pick in this year's MLB Draft, the Nationals concluded the 2023 season with two prospects in the top 10: Dylan Crews (#2) and James Wood (#7). Currently, the Washington Nationals are ranked #8 by MLB Pipeline as of August 15th, with the Padres trailing closely behind at #9.
All in all, the Nationals have made impressive strides within just a year. What are your thoughts on this?