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Aggressive Padres dominate deadline, outbid suitors, including Cardinals, for Juan Soto

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St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals practice for Game 3 of NLDS

The St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak talks on the phone during as the Cardinals take the field for practice at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. The Cardinals and the Washington Nationals are tied 1-1 in the National League Division Series. Photo By David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

With a whopper of a deal that once included the swap of two starting first basemen and a bundle of top-tier prospects, the San Diego Padres pulled off the deal for Washington's uber-talent Juan Soto.

In exchange for the 23-year-old Soto and switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell, the Nationals received three of the top 62 prospects in all of the minors, according to Baseball America, and also major-league starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore. The deal also initially sent first baseman Eric Hosmer to Washington but he utilized his no-trade clause to reject the move. That resulted in Luke Voit being pushed into the deal in Hosmer's place.

Hosmer's choice changed the construction of the deal, but not the end result: Soto is a Padre. 

The Cardinals had engaged in negotiations with the Nationals for Soto in large part because they and the Padres were two of the teams that could meet the exorbitant talent cost Nationals had set. The Cardinals do not believe they were one of the final two teams bidding for Soto, and they made progress on other talks Monday night believing they had exhausted the attempt to get the All-Star outfielder.

The Nationals sought a deal with the Cardinals because of interest in specific, high-upside prospects.

(More details on the Cardinals' thinking was reported earlier, see below.) 

The prospect package the Nationals are receiving include outfielder Robert Hassell III, shortstop C. J. Abrams, outfielder James Wood, and a right-hander, Jarlin Susana.

Abrams ranks No. 11 in all of the minors, according to BA. Hassell ranks 25th, and Wood has a high ceiling, ranking No. 62 on the BA Top 100.

The Cardinals have three prospects ranked in the top 65 in the Ba's 100: Jordan Walker (7), Matthew Liberatore (34), and Masyn Winn (64). Nolan Gorman would rank, likely, in the top 30, except he graduated to the majors this season.

The Cardinals have stressed their goal to improve pitching at the trade deadline and have maintained ongoing talks with teams about starters. A few of those conversations included asks for prospects that would have been involved in a Soto deal.

The Cardinals have been in contact with San Francisco about lefty Carlos Rodon, per source. The Twins were also interested before acquiring Tyler Mahle, and the Phillies have also pursued starters like Rodon.

Additional trades made by the Cardinals before the 5 p.m. St. Louis time deadline Tuesday: 

• The Cardinals traded Harrison Bader to the New York Yankees for lefty Jordan Montgomery, who will go into the team's rotation

• St. Louis traded catcher Austin Romine to the Cincinnati Reds for cash considerations. 

• The Cardinals acquired catcher Austin Allen from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for minor league right-handed pitcher Carlos Guarate. Allen was assigned to Triple-A Memphis, according to the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Cardinals Nationals Baseball

Washington Nationals' Juan Soto runs down the first base line during a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, July 29, 2022, in Washington.

***

From early Tuesday morning:

As the Cardinals completed a trade late Monday night with Pittsburgh, as notable as the two pitchers coming aboard, Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton, were the players who did not leave.

The Cardinals still have their top young talent to deal, or keep.

The Cardinals reached the final hours before Tuesday night’s 5 p.m. trade deadline and their closing arguments to acquire a starter or Washington outfielder Juan Soto with all of their leading prospects still on hand. In the industry, that’s called “prospect capital,” and the Cardinals have been able to remain in talks for Soto, the 23-year-old Derby champ, because of it.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday morning that San Diego had become the most aggressive in the pursuit of Soto and his teammate, switch-hitter Josh Bell.

The Cardinals remain in conversation about Soto.

The asking price is predictably high and Washington's decision is whether it can squeeze as much from a few interested teams at the trade deadline or open it up to all bidders and see what happens this winter. The Nationals are trying to decide if maximizing urgency or maximizing demand is the best way to get a return on the game's top young hitter. Soto does not become a free agent until after the 2024 season.

The Cardinals, who have made a business model out of acquiring talent via trade that they could not sign as free agents, view the deal as getting Soto for the 2 1/3 seasons and no guarantee that he'll re-sign.

Soto homered off Max Scherzer on Monday night and received an ovation at Nationals Park when he came up late in the game.

“It kind of feels weird, too, because nothing (has) happened yet, and we're just still waiting," he told reporters after the loss to Scherzer and the Mets.

The addition of Quintana gives the Cardinals a straight-up replacement for lefty Steven Matz, who could miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. The Cardinals continue to be interested in other starters to recharge the look of the rotation. The Marlins experienced some acceleration in the offers for starter Pablo Lopez on Monday night with the Dodgers involved, a source confirmed. The Los Angeles Angels are expected to trade Noah Syndergaard before the deadline, and his salary suggests he’ll command a lower return than others. Like Syndergaard and Boston's Nate Eovaldi, Giants lefty Carlos Rodon would be a rental and the most appealing one available if the Giants pursue offers.

Since it became clear that Washington would entertain trading Soto, the Cardinals have been drawn into those discussions – by their strategy and by the Nationals’ interest in their prospects. The Cardinals have seven prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100, and young players Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson on the active roster. Several teams have expressed an interest in Gorman as a central part of a trade. The group of prospects is headlined by infielders Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, two talents who have drawn a lot of interest from teams at the trade deadline. Given his power profile, upside as a hitter, and ability to play multiple positions, Walker could be the top prospect in the minors within a year.

Also drawing much interest is the Cardinals' power-armed right-hander Gordon Graceffo.

The Cardinals, of course, are reluctant to part with Walker, who is already their top hitting prospect since the late Oscar Taveras. There is internal discussion on whether he could be a budding star – and when. Walker, at 20, has hit .305 with a .390 on-base percentage and a .904 OPS. He is four years younger than the average age at his current level and flashing the power expected to develop – with 12 homers total and two two-homers game this past week.

Winn dazzled with his 100-mph throw from shortstop at the Futures Game, but he also appeals to scouts who see the athleticism, the significantly improved ability at the plate, and the many avenues he has to reach the majors. If he stalls as a hitter, Winn will rise as a power pitcher.

A question the Cardinals are also confronting is Washington’s interest in center fielder Dylan Carlson. Tyler O’Neill (leg cramps) is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, but as of Sunday Carlson was the Cardinals’ only healthy outfielder from the everyday trio they planned to have this season. Harrison Bader’s ongoing soreness with plantar fasciitis leaves Carlson as the only proven center fielder on the roster.

He has played the position well, opening the possibility that the Cardinals will continue to play him at the position regularly.

Washington thinks highly of Carlson, a source not with the Cardinals said. There have been times in the past week when the Cardinals have expressed the preference, at least privately, to avoid including Carlson in any trades, sources described.

The Cardinals sending reliever Johan Oviedo and minor-league infielder Malcom Nunez, a talented all-around hitter, to Pittsburgh came late in a frenetic day.

The Milwaukee Brewers opened the eve of the trade deadline with a stunner – shipping their closer, Josh Hader, to San Diego for a handful of players, two of whom could give manager Craig Counsell additional flexibility and creativity in his bullpen. St. Louis native Devin Williams takes over as the first-place Brewers closer. The Cubs come to town and expect to look a lot different in the hours ahead of first pitch. Catcher Willson Contreras, one of the last remaining players from the 2016 World Series team, has drawn interest from teams, including, of course, the Padres.

San Diego’s general manager A. J. Preller is considered one of the most aggressive execs in the game and seen as someone willing to swing big for trades (and what it costs to make them). In some of the same trade talks that involve the Cardinals, that’s a contrast compared to the meticulous, often conservative, always quiet, and direct approach the Cardinals take under president of baseball operations John Mozeliak’s guide.

Here is a morning snapshot of many deals made Monday.

This list will be a rolling update as trades happen Tuesday

MONDAY

Milwaukee Brewers revamped their bullpen by sending lefty Hader, an All-Star and for many years the best reliever in the game, to San Diego for lefty Taylor Rogers, right-hander Dinelson Lamet, and prospects, lefty Robert Gasser and outfielder Estuery Ruiz.

The Yankees acquired starter Frankie Montas and reliever Lou Trivino for four top prospects. The Yankees also traded with the Cubs for reliever Scott Effross and his many years of control. The Cubs received right-hander Hayden Wesneski in return.

Atlanta Braves capped a busy Monday that also included a record, $212-million extension for third baseman Austin Riley by swapping major leaguers with Houston. The Braves acquired starter Jake Odorizzi for their rotation and sent reliever Will Smith to the Astros.

As part of a hectic day for Houston, the Astros acquired catcher Christian Vazquez from Boston – doing so as Vazquez was taking batting practice at Minute Maid Park before a Red Sox-Astros game. Houston also acquired outfielder and fan-favorite Trey Mancini and right-hander Jayden Murray from Baltimore. And, later, the Astros acquired outfielder Robbie Grossman from Detroit in exchange for lefty Kris Anglin.

Chicago White Sox acquired lefty Jake Diekman from Boston for catcher Reese McGuire.

Kansas City acquired right-hander Luke Weaver from Arizona for infielder Emmanuel Rivera. Weaver was part of the package the Cardinals sent to the Diamondbacks for Paul Goldschmidt in December 2018.

Boston acquired former Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham from Cincinnati.

TUESDAY

Minnesota lands All-Star closer Jorge Lopez from Baltimore in exchange for four pitchers: Cade Povich, Yennier Cano, Juan Rojas, and Juan Nunez. The teams announced the deal.

Boston is acquiring first baseman Hosmer from San Diego after he rejected the deal to the Washington Nationals, ESPN.com and others report.

Toronto announced a deal acquiring relievers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop from Miami. The return to Miami is a minor-league infielder and a player to be named later.

San Diego sent Luke Voit to the Nationals as part of the Soto trade, the team announced.

Minnesota acquired Reds starter Tyler Mahle for three prospects, Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Steven Hajjar. All three are Top 14 prospects for Minnesota, per Baseball America.

Cubs dealt reliever David Robertson to the Phillies ahead of playing the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. 

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