Juan Soto, arguably the best hitter in Major League Baseball (MLB), continues to justify the San Diego Padres' bold decision to acquire him in 2022. With an impressive 7.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 171, Soto's standing at the top of the offensive players' leaderboard suggests the Padres got their end of the deal right.
As the 2024 season looms with Soto potentially hitting free agency, the outcome of the Padres' gamble is under the microscope, drawing comparisons with the NFL's notorious Herschel Walker trade by the Dallas Cowboys in 1989.
In 1989, during their dismal season, the Cowboys traded Walker, their star running back, to the Minnesota Vikings. Not only did Dallas part with Walker but also packaged three draft picks in exchange for a whopping return of eight draft choices and five players.
Dallas subsequently utilized two of those picks to draft future NFL legends Darren Woodson and Emmitt Smith, pivoting the franchise towards a period of dominant success, which included three Super Bowl wins. Walker, meanwhile, experienced a decline post-trade, accentuating the Cowboys' strategic masterstroke.
Soto Trade: Future Shaped
Fast forward to 2022, the Washington Nationals sent shockwaves through the MLB by dealing Juan Soto to the Padres. The Nationals' haul for Soto was substantial, with a cadre of talent including Luke Voit, promising outfielders C.J.
Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, young pitcher MacKenzie Gore, and infield prospect Jarlin Susana. This trade not only reshaped the Nationals' future but also posed a tantalizing question: could this exchange of talent mirror the long-term impacts of the Walker trade? ESPN's Jeff Passan dubbed Soto's trade the grandest ever for a single player, comparing the aggregate potential of the new recruits to Soto's prodigious talent.
The transaction, initially seen as a "King's Ransom," could be a historic pivot point for both franchises involved. Soto, having turned down a staggering $440 million contract extension from the Nationals, embarked on a different trajectory with the Padres, strengthening his formidable stats rather than mirroring Walker's decline.
As Soto strides through the current season with statistical heft, outpacing peers with a .410 on-base percentage and maintaining high rankings across several batting categories, the Padres relish their side of the trade.
With such impressive figures, Soto's contributions to the Padres' competitiveness cannot be overstated. It remains to be seen whether Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo will attain the iconic status enjoyed by Cowboys' Gil Brandt or whether the trade will shift his career path differently.
The true verdict on this trade will unfold as Soto continues to carve his path to free agency and beyond, with the baseball world keenly watching the long-term outcomes of this transaction.