And the winner of the Juan Soto contest is the San Diego Padres.
The Washington Nationals agreed to trade the 23-year-old superstar along with star first baseman Josh Bell to the Padres on Tuesday morning about six hours before the trade deadline, according to multiple people familiar with the deal.
The Dodgers, who were considered one of the favorites to land Soto along with the Padres and Cardinals, will now have to face Soto as a divisional opponent.
Soto is not cheap. The Padres are returning at least five top prospects to the Nationals: left-handed starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore, right-hander Jarlin Susana, shortstop CJ Abrams and outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood. Veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer could also travel to Washington, although the Nationals are on his no-trade list.
But, Soto is the kind of generational talent rarely available at this time of year, a two-time All-Star and 2020 National League batting champion who will be under the control of the team not only this year but also for the next two seasons.
A month ago, Soto looked unlikely to move, even with the Nationals floundering in last place amid a rebuild.
Although negotiations between Soto and the Nationals over a possible contract extension did not gain traction, general manager Mike Rizzo still publicly stated in June that Soto would not be moved before the trade deadline.
But then circumstances changed.
Soto reportedly rejected a 14-year, $440 million offer from the team, and the club said it would start listening to trade offers. Speculation over where Soto could land has engulfed the sport
A native of the Dominican Republic who made his debut as a 19-year-old in 2018, Soto has quickly established himself as one of the sport’s top attacking threats.
In 2018, he hit .292 with a .923 on-base plus slugging percentage, 22 home runs and 70 RBIs to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
He was top-10 in MVP voting in 2019, batting .282 with a .949 OPS, 34 home runs and 110 RBIs to help the Nationals win the World Series.
During the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, Soto won the NL batting title with a .351 average and added 13 home runs and 37 RBIs to earn his first Silver Slugger award. I finished fifth in MVP voting.
Last year, he hit .313 with a major league-best .465 on-base percentage, earning his first All-Star selection and finishing second for MVP behind Bryce Harper.
Bell is a productive hitter in his own right, a .301 batting hitter with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs.
Gore, Hassell and Abrams were first-round picks and Wood was a second-round pick. Susana, 18, was removed from the Dominican Republic for 1.7 million.