In some years, we debate the biggest winner on trade-deadline day. That’s not the case this year.
Not when the Padres, who used to regularly cry poverty in sleepy and scenic San Diego, traded for a latter-day Ted Williams.
Juan Soto is the game’s best left-handed hitter, an absolute freak who, at age 19, had the batting eye of Williams, and who is on track to become an all-time great four years into his career. No team ever has added a hitting triumvirate the likes of Soto, Josh Bell (who was acquired from the Nationals with Soto) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (who has been out all season after surgery on his fractured left wrist, but took live batting practice Monday and should be back fairly soon) in one flourish. In a matter of seeming seconds, the Padres’ lineup went from mundane to spectacular,
No surprise, Padres general manager A.J. Preller, a wunderkind himself, is the one who sent five great prospects — pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Jarlin Susana, outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood, and shortstop C.J. Abrams — plus Luke Voit to Washington in the same blockbuster deal. Preller is one of the great gamblers, and also one of the best accumulators of young talent, which allowed him to make this franchise-transforming deal.
It wasn’t all that long ago the Padres claimed they couldn’t afford Chase Headley. But that was under different ownership, and different leadership. The Dodgers and Cardinals — both model franchises — had the prospects and resources to make it happen, but they didn’t have Preller, who was hellbent on making it happen.
The excitement was palpable in San Diego, to the point at which they sold out their game Wednesday versus the Rockies. Can’t blame ’em. We all have our eye on the Padres now.
More observations from a great deadline day:
1. The Yankees filled their needs by adding Frankie Montas, Andrew Benintendi, Scott Effross and Lou Trivino, and of course by sending poor Joey Gallo to the Dodgers. Can’t blame the Dodgers for taking a flyer on one shocking Bronx disappointment, thinking he’ll do better out of the biggest market. Of course, Los Angeles isn’t exactly Milwaukee.
Montas gives the Yankees a No. 2 starter, and Benintendi will gather many more hits than Gallo.
The Yankees were doing their logical best until a head-scratching last day, when they flirted with big pitching moves (Pablo Lopez) before making the odd call to send reliable starter Jordan Montgomery to St. Louis for Harrison Bader, a center fielder with flash and flair who can fly, but is for now tethered to the bench due to plantar fasciitis.
The Yankees love having a top-tier center fielder, and it doesn’t hurt he’s an outwardly confident kid with a New York background, ensuring no repeat of the Gallo debacle. Of course, that great fielding acumen would mean more if he were actually available to play.
2. The Astros made the two moves the Mets should have made, adding catcher Christian Vazquez and OF/1B/DH Trey Mancini. Vazquez is a superior two-way player, and Mancini has always hit and is such an inspirational leader and all-around good guy we wonder if Mancini means mensch in Italian.
The media buildup regarding brand names, including Willson Contreras, Bell, J.D. Martinez, Vazquez, Mancini and David Robertson didn’t help. Useful reliever Mychal Givens might be the Mets’ biggest acquisition. It appears the Mets clung so tight to their prospects that they didn’t give themselves a chance to acquire any of the names we’d been speculating about for weeks.
3. The Twins needed pitching, and they acquired three pitchers who will provide immediate help, starting with the underrated Tyler Mahle, who actually has a better ERA-plus since 2020 than Montas. The bullpen was bolstered with Jorge Lopez, who turned into a star with the Orioles this year, and Michael Fulmer, an effective set-up man best known here as the bait for the Mets to land Yoenis Cespedes.
4. The small-market Brewers, who play percentages as well as anyone, shocked folks by sending star closer Josh Hader to the Padres for Taylor Rogers and three prospects, in a play that makes perfect sense in baseball’s second smallest market. While Rogers isn’t Hader, he has allowed just seven home runs since 2020, the same total Hader has allowed in his past 16 innings Hader is a big loss, but denizens of tiny towns are used to such occurrences, and the Brewers slightly softened the blow by adding Matt Bush and Trevor Rosenthal.
5. The whole buy-sell is tricky. Red Sox GM and Yale man Chaim Bloom may be operating over my head, but he will need to explain how bringing in first baseman Eric Hosmer makes sense when Hosmer has three years to go and top prospect Triston Casas looks like a near future star.
6. The Cubs did a fine job last year, when they had their 2016 championship players to trade, and came up with some gems, including outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, whom the Mets so regret dealing that it may have scarred them. But this time the Cubs only offloaded a few relievers and bizarrely held onto Contreras, an All-Star catcher who should be worth more than the draft pick they will get when he presumably leaves this winter. The Cubs have now operated like a small-market team two years running. Well, anyway, there’s only one Padres.