“I was relieved, I really was,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez told reporters in his post-game press conference the night Washington saw both Juan Soto and Josh Bell compete for a high-end package and a big League exchanged bats for the San Diego Padres. “I felt different – a breath of fresh air, and for me it was about regrouping and saying, ‘Okay, this is what we have to do to move forward. So we’re going to go out there, we’re going to compete, we’re going to play hard, we’re going to do a few different things… I was proud that the guys went out there.
GM Mike Rizzo, who set a high bar for the club to even consider swapping then-23-year-old Soto with two-and-a-half years of team control before freehand, found a team ready to meet his demands , said the ongoing drama surrounding the team’s potential sale didn’t factor into the decision-making process when it came to Soto.
“It wasn’t a consideration,” Rizzo said.
“That’s above my pay grade. I’m here to make this team the best it can be. This was a cautious step. It was a prudent baseball move. It was a difficult step. It’s a difficult day.”
After turning down a 15-year/$440 million extension offer after Soto just traded away someone who has been regularly dubbed the talent of the generation after the deadline, Soto told reporters they would keep grinding, but he took a moment to acknowledge the contributions Soto and Bell made during their time in the nation’s capital.
“It was a box of mixed feelings,” said the manager. “So I know Rizzo came in and spoke to you guys about what we received,” a package that includes top prospects MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Jarlin Susana, as well as the Big-League -Brawler Luke Voit contained, “…This is an incredible amount of amazing talent and we’re excited to work with these guys, so I really don’t want to talk about those guys, I want to talk about Juan Soto and Josh Bell and what they mean to.” this organization.”
“Starting with Soto, as we all know,” the manager continued. “He’s a big part of our success [2019’s World Series win], and these memories will never fade. We talked about her for a while. He’s a great kid and I wish him all the best for the future. In this game you never know what will happen in the future as we all know so who knows what will happen for him and me and if we cross paths again.
“So, but he’s – what he’s meant to us as a national family, to the city, to the fans, we should appreciate that, but like I said, we’re in a position to move on now, and like I said, we feel the future is bright with the players we have and I look forward to continuing to do so.”
Bell was absent from the Nationals’ 2019 win at the Fall Classics, and the club underperformed in his two seasons at DC, but he made a strong impression on his manager during his time at the club, which Martinez acknowledged right from the start, becoming a baseman for the Padres allocated.
“Josh Bell, what an incredible human being,” Martinez said. “I’m serious. I mean, his presence in the clubhouse, I call him the big teddy bear. He’s been amazing on and off the pitch so he’s going to be missed. He gets an opportunity to go somewhere else and help them win and trying to get them into the playoffs and we all dream of winning a World Series, he didn’t see that here with us but now he’s getting the opportunity so I wish him well too.”
“Like I said these memories will never go away for me, two incredible people, but as an organization we felt like we had to do what we had to do and like I said I’m very, very excited for the guys who we received and look forward to working with them soon.”
As for the return for Soto and Bell?
Gore, 23, was ranked the No. 4 Padres according to Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. Abrams, 22, was ranked No. 1 in the Padres and No. 9 in all of baseball by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America ahead of the season. Hassell III, 21, was the top prospect in the San Diego system at the time of the trade, according to MLBPipeline.com, and was #2 according to Baseball America, and he was ranked #21 in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com and #25 according to Baseball America. Wood, 20, was No. 3 in the Padres’ system according to MLB Pipeline and No. 4 according to Baseball America. Jarlin Susana, 18, was “…the No. 1 consensus pitcher in the 2022 international signing class,” as the Nationals did in theirs Press release on the trade noted, and the #10 in the San Diego system.
The players together were the kind of young prospects the club said should even consider swapping Soto, and at the end of the season Rizzo said the deal hastened the restart that started at the 2021 trade deadline.
“I think the most significant step we made this season was getting the players we had to get in exchange for Juan Soto. I think that was the biggest step we took. I thought it would be a bold move by the owners to allow us a Soto deal if we get the deal we need and I think it was very important for the organization to make that deal and get the players We had to trade such a special player with Juan and to get the players we had I think we are very lucky to get what we got.