And the winner of the Juan Soto sweepstakes is the San Diego Padres.
The 23-year-old superstar was traded along with star first baseman Josh Bell by the Washington Nationals to the Padres on Tuesday morning about six hours before the trade deadline, according to several news outlets including the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The Dodgers, who were considered one of favorites to land Soto along with the Padres and Cardinals, now will have to face Soto as a division opponent.
Soto did not come cheap. The Padres are sending back at least five top prospects to the Nationals: left-handed starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore, right-hander Jarlin Susana, shortstop C.J. Abrams and outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood. Veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer might also also headed to Washington.
But, Soto is the kind of generational talent rarely available this time of year, a two-time All-Star and 2020 National League batting champion who will be under team control not only this year but for the following two seasons as well.
A month ago, Soto seemed unlikely to move, even with the Nationals floundering in last place in the midst of a rebuild.
Though negotiations between Soto and the Nationals on a potential contract extension hadn’t gained traction, general manager Mike Rizzo still went on the record in June saying Soto wouldn’t 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 let it be known it would start listening to trade offers. Speculation about where Soto could land engulfed the sport
A native of the Dominican Republic who debuted as a 19-year-old in 2018, Soto quickly established himself as one of the premier offensive threats in the sport.
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 a top-10 finisher 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.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, Soto won the NL batting title with a .351 average and added 13 home runs and 37 RBIs to claim his first Silver Slugger award. He 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 switch-hitter who is batting .301 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs.