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Grading the Padres-Nationals trade deadline blockbuster involving Juan Soto, Josh Bell

Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals managed to pull off one of the craziest trades in MLB history on Tuesday. Juan Soto is officially headed to San Diego, as the crown jewel of the trade deadline has finally been offloaded by the Nationals.

The Padres are acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals, in exchange for a plethora of prospects. The package the Nationals will receive consists of MacKenzie Gore and CJ Abrams, alongside prospects Robert Hassell III, James Wood, and Jarlin Susana.

While the haul is solid for the Nationals, it’s hard to stomach the fact that they pulled the trigger on a Soto trade while also sending Bell to San Diego in the same deal. The Padres initially expected to send Eric Hosmer to Washington in the deal (and pay his entire salary in the process), but the veteran first baseman had the Nationals as part of his 10-team no-trade clause, so it seems he’s no longer part of the trade.

It was clear that Washington would be unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension for Soto, but was the haul big enough for a generational talent like the 23-year-old outfielder? That’s what we’re here to assess.

With all that in mind, here are our trade grades for the Padres-Nationals blockbuster that will send Soto to San Diego.

Padres-Nationals Juan Soto Trade Grades 

Padres Grade: A+

They did it. The Padres landed Juan Soto, beating out the Dodgers and Cardinals to the top prize of the deadline in the process. Any trade to acquire Soto was going to cost a fortune going the other way, and while the Padres have effectively decimated their farm, they managed to land the superstar outfielder and a one-time All-Star in Josh Bell, who will immediately replace Hosmer at first base, once they figure out what to do with the 32-year-old after he refused to be traded to the Nationals.

The Padres immediately got better, much better. Soto is easily one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. The MLB’s leader in walks is having a down year in 2022 and is still posting a .894 OPS with 21 home runs and 49 RBI. Stick him in the loaded Padres’ lineup and those numbers should skyrocket. He’ll have vastly more starpower around him in the lineup meaning opposing pitchers can no longer afford to pitch around him like they have this season in Washington.

The Padres now have arguably the most dangerous trio in all of MLB consisting of Fernando Tatis Jr., Soto, and Manny Machado. Having also moved to acquire Josh Hader before the deadline makes the team true World Series contenders after this deal.

Soto is under contract for two more seasons before he’ll become a free agent after the 2024 campaign, at which point the Padres will have a huge decision on their hands. Bell, on the other hand, is only a rental, but he can be a major difference-maker for the Padres this season.

Overall, the Padres couldn’t have come out of this deal any better and there should be absolutely no complaints from the fanbase. The team made its intentions of winning a World Series clear, and now they look poised to go out and do just that.

Nationals Grade: C

The Nationals got some valuable pieces in Gore and Abrams, both of whom have been atop San Diego’s farm system rankings in the past few years. They also nabbed the Padres’ top overall prospect in Robert Hassell and their No. 3 farmhand in James Wood, both of whom boast tremendous potential. All of those players could wind up being solid big-leaguers, but it’d be shocking to see any of them reach the level of Soto’s stardom, or even approach it.

While the Nationals certainly improved their farm system, they gave away a generational talent who is just 23 years old to do so. To put that into perspective, Gore is already 23 years old, despite having far less MLB experience than Soto. Gore has the potential to be a top-tier starter in the league and he’s been solid in 2022, but he’ll need to continue to prove himself in Washington when he returns from the IL.

Hassell, 20, figures to be a serious talent in the big leagues down the line, and there are many who believe James Wood is the best prospect in San Diego’s farm system. Both boast tremendous potential and could turn into quality MLB players, but Soto is truly a generational talent who could be a star for the next 10-15 years.

Yes, Washington got a big haul of prospects to fuel their rebuild, but it’s impossible to feel confident in the organization after they traded a player of Soto’s caliber. We’ve seen the Nationals trade some of baseball’s biggest stars throughout the past half-decade, including Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner. And you can officially add Soto to that list.

Expect Washington to fly up MLB farm system rankings lists, but that’s likely the only improvement Nationals fans can expect to see in the short term. If their newly acquired youngsters can develop into quality pieces, this trade may not be considered such a loss for Washington, but in the immediate aftermath, the Padres appear to be the clear winners here.