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With Juan Soto and Josh Hader, Padres Go All-In for World Series

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The franchise began in 1969, just one other expansion team in funny uniforms that lost 110 games. Five many years passed, with a couple of Hall of Famers but no championships. Then, after years of aggressive spending and trading by the front office, Juan Soto led the team all the best way.

That scenario played out for the Washington Nationals in 2019, once they finally won the World Series. The San Diego Padres are hoping for a sequel of their very own.

The Padres — expansion cousins of the Montreal Expos, who eventually moved to Washington — have never been especially near a title. Their last scheduled World Series game was on Oct. 25, 1998, Game 7 against the Yankees within the Bronx. They were swept, and the sport was never played. That’s the day Soto was born within the Dominican Republic.

Now Soto is a Padre, on to the subsequent phase of a profession with an almost peerless starting. Together with his age-23 season still in progress, listed below are among the 10 most similar players in history to Soto through age 22, in line with Baseball Reference: Hank Aaron, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Mike Trout.

Soto is that good. That’s the reason he could confidently turn down a $440 million contract offer from the Nationals last month. That’s the reason he commanded an exorbitant package of players from the Padres in a deal that rattled the game on Tuesday’s trading deadline.

Washington sent Soto and Josh Bell — a switch-hitting force at first base — to San Diego for first baseman Luke Voit and five young players: shortstop C.J. Abrams, pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, pitcher Jarlin Susana and outfielder James Wood. All five were highly regarded amateurs who’ve to date made good on their promise. None have yet played a full season within the majors.

The move leaves the Nationals with almost nothing from their championship team, mainly discouraging reminders of bad investments and false potential. Stephen Strasburg makes $35 million but cannot escape injury. Patrick Corbin, who makes $23.3 million, is 15-38 for the reason that World Series. Outfielder Victor Robles, once a top-five prospect in the game, is a bust.

The team was not poised to win before Soto’s free agency after the 2024 season. By trading Soto now — with three potential postseason runs for the acquiring team — the Nationals received extraordinary value in return. Constructing around Soto may need been the higher option, but that was a dangerous bet with the team on the market and the agent Scott Boras’s history of extracting top dollar in free agency.

The Nationals have eagerly chased Boras’s best clients. The overall manager Mike Rizzo, with backing from the Lerner family ownership, built five playoff teams in eight seasons through 2019, largely via Team Boras members akin to Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Soto, Strasburg and Jayson Werth.

But whenever you play on the high-stakes table, you may lose in the identical way you won. And now the Nationals are losing greater than another team.

The Padres would appear to be in for a giant fall, too — eventually. They can’t sustain their level of spending, each in dollars and in prospect capital, ceaselessly. But their general manager, A.J. Preller, spent years preparing for all times as a contender, and now he resides out the fantasy.

Few of his peers gather high-impact prospects like Preller, and few are as willing to part with them. Inside the previous couple of seasons, Preller has traded for a full rotation of established starters of their primes: Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell.

In 2019, he persuaded ownership to make third baseman Manny Machado the primary $300 million player in baseball history, then gave even extra money to shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. before last season: $340 million for 14 years. Tatis was only 17 years old when Preller stole him from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for James Shields in 2016.

The deal for Soto and Bell was not even the one headliner for the Padres on the deadline: Josh Hader, a four-time All-Star closer, arrived in a trade with Milwaukee on Monday, and the versatile Brandon Drury (.274 with 20 home runs) joined on Tuesday in a cope with Cincinnati.

The team also shipped out first baseman Eric Hosmer — who was initially a part of the Soto trade before invoking his limited no-trade clause — to Boston for a prospect.

Other contenders acted boldly on the deadline. Houston acquired Trey Mancini and Christian Vázquez for his or her lineup and Will Smith for his or her bullpen, while Atlanta and Philadelphia each added a starter, a reliever and an outfielder: Noah Syndergaard, David Robertson and Brandon Marsh for the Phillies, and Jake Odorizzi, Raisel Iglesias and Robbie Grossman for the Braves. The Yankees, the Mets, Toronto, St. Louis, Seattle, Minnesota and Milwaukee also added multiple players.

But no person acted with quite the identical desperation because the Padres, who’ve waited a few years for this moment. They endured nine losing seasons in a row before making the playoffs within the pandemic-shortened season of 2020, the one season since 1998 with a victory in a playoff round.

Last 12 months began with promise but ended with a thud: 18 games over .500 on Aug. 10, the Padres were 4 games under by season’s end. They fired Manager Jayce Tingler and signed Bob Melvin — a three-time Manager of the Yr winner — away from Oakland.

Tatis has not played this season after breaking his wrist in an off-season motorcycle accident, but he should soon begin a rehabilitation project. Melvin has already put the Padres in playoff position at 58-46 through Monday — and he still has not written Bell, Soto or Tatis into the lineup. That may be a whole lot of thump to spice up a league-average offense, and the Padres have already got a top-10 pitching staff.

Loads of other teams can dream of a deep postseason run — the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Mets and Braves all reached Tuesday’s trading deadline with a .600 winning percentage or higher. They’re the majors’ elite, and the Padres aspire to hitch them.

Those five franchises, after all, have something else the Padres lack: a World Series championship. Soto is gone from the Nationals before his twenty fourth birthday, and there’s something sad about that. But now he has a likelihood to lift a second team to its first parade ever, and that pursuit might be charming.

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