Did the San Diego Padres make a mistake in trading for Juan Soto?
Buyer’s remorse is a serious thing. Often, after you make a purchase it is natural to ponder if you really need the item.
A.J. Preller is under a lot of pressure to win. The Dodgers again ran away with the division, and the play of the Padres against L.A. was pitiful in 2022. Something had to be done heading into the trade deadline, and the Padres did it.
On August 2, the San Diego Padres made an aggressive move in trading for Juan Soto.
The Washington Nationals sent Josh Bell to San Diego with Juan Soto for a package of young players and first baseman Luke Voit. The Padres sent MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, James Wood, Robert Hassell III, and Jarlin Susana. The five young players come with high regard, and this was arguably the best grouping of prospects ever dealt to another team.
Time will tell the true value of the players sent to Washington in the deal. For the Padres, they got two sure things in Bell and Soto. Both players are veterans of the league, and their value is understandable. Soto, at the age of 23, is heading into the prime of his career and comes with limitless potential. Bell, a switch-hitting first baseman, is heading into free agency and was enjoying one of his best seasons in the majors.
This is a complex trade to evaluate, and it will take years before a winner is determined.
Here are some thoughts on the deal, supporting both sides of the argument of whether or not the Padres made a bad move in trading for the slugging outfielder.
Yes, the Padres gave up way too much talent.
At this point, it is difficult to gauge the actual value of the five young players dealt to Washington. MacKenzie Gore and CJ Abrams spent time as the Padres’ No. 1 prospect, and both players are major league ready. Abrams is already making an impact defensively for the Nationals as they attempt to keep their fanbase engaged in the team. Gore is still down with arm issues, and the Nationals are wisely taking their time in bringing the pitcher back. Both men will be huge in the rebuild for the Nationals in 2023 and beyond.
Luke Voit is not a perennial All-Star, but he has cranked out 20 home runs this season and is under contract through the 2024 season. The power hitter brings some true value to Washington and brings experience to the team. The next three men will make or break this deal for the Nationals. Robert Hassell is the closest of the three to being major league ready as the 21 shows great plate discipline. He has struggled in his time in the Nationals minors but has the potential to be a solid everyday player at the major league level.
Both James Wood and Jarlin Susana possess loud tools. Susana is a triple-digit fastball pitcher with an excellent frame. The 18-year-old has tremendous upside but is years away from breaking into the majors, and that comes with uncertainties. James Wood, at 6-foot-7, has some of the rawest power potentials in all of the minor leagues. He is an athletic outfielder who is capable of playing center field. His hit tool is also impressive, and the 19-year-old could be something special. Wood has yet to play over the Single-A level, though, so there are also uncertainties when it comes to his future.
The Padres traded one solid major league player (Voit), two players who are major league ready (Abrams and Gore), and then threw in three of their top prospects (Hassell, Wood, and Susana) for Juan Soto and a Josh Bell who is a three-month rental. There is potential for this to be a very lop-sided trade. In three years, the Nationals could possess all five young players on their roster, and Juan Soto could walk away from the Padres. The outfielder is due for free agency after the 2024 season, and it may take $500 million to sign him long-term. That is a scary thought. Can the Padres afford him?
No, prospects are prospects, and you pay the price for a talent like Juan Soto.
Juan Soto is a rare talent. The left-handed hitter owns a career .952 OPS and 157 OPS+ in over 2,000 at-bats in five major league seasons. He broke into the league at the age of 19 and put up a .292/.406/..517 slash line in 116 games. With an amazing eye at the plate and prodigious power, Soto has the ability to be a hall-of-fame player when it is all said and done. At 23, it is too early to make that claim, but he is well on that path.
At the time of the trade, the Padres were about to add Juan Soto into their lineup in between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. To possess that middle of the lineup is a scary thought, but it will not happen until May of 2023 (at the earliest) as Tatis is under suspension by MLB for his positive PED test. For the Padres, they will still get two years of service from Soto with Tatis in the lineup. The 2023 Padres are poised to be a very good team offensively despite the struggles of the current team.
Juan Soto does not make or break the Padres. He is one player. However, he provides an excellent left-handed compliment to the Padres and also comes with a limitless upside. In 2020, Soto recorded a 1.185 OPS and a 217 OPS+ during the 2020 Covid-shortened season. He hit .351 that season and finished fifth in N.L. MVP voting. Can the left-handed repeat those numbers and do it for a 162-season? Yes. He can. That is exciting potential for a Padres team already blessed with offensive superstars.
The play of Juan Soto in recent weeks is troubling. He owns a .716 OPS as a Padre in 34 games and 115 at-bats. The outfielder has not played well, and there is no way to sugarcoat that fact. Soto is still walking at his normal rate (21.5 %) and productive in that manner, but he is not driving in runs and not producing when needed for a Padres team that has struggled with the bat all season long. You expect more from Juan Soto. It feels like it is only a matter of time before he breaks out.
At the end of the day, the Padres made a transaction that every other major league team would have made.
You pay the price for an opportunity to add Juan Soto to your team. The Padres did pay a hefty price tag, but talent like Soto’s is rare. Sure, he is presently in a horrible slump. That doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of coming out of it and performing at the best level of his career. Soto has always been a streaky player and the Padres are witnessing the worst of his ability.
The law of averages dictates that Juan Soto will have a major hit streak very soon. Expect a breakout, and all this talk of an overpay will minimize. The Padres could potentially feel pain from this trade, but when you are a relevant team, you move prospects for a chance to gather legit major league talent. Welcome to relevancy, Padres fans.