For two years, the San Diego Padres have spent big money trying in a thus-far unsuccessful attempt to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. That cash race profoundly accelerated prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline, when the Padres grabbed outfielder Juan Soto in a deal with the Washington Nationals.
With Soto, San Diego obtained the biggest prize on the market, while also adding first baseman Josh Bell to the package.
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“He’s a generational player,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said about Soto after the deal was made. “We’re on bumpy road now, and we think this deal we made is going to get us out of it. We made a deal that is being called historical. I call it a good deal for the Nationals and Padres at this time in both our franchises history.”
While the first-place Dodgers passed the deadline leading the Padres by 11 1/2 games in the National League West, the Soto trade continues the teams’ heated off-field competition for talent.
The Dodgers grabbed outfielder Mookie Betts from Boston prior to the 2020 season, gave him a 12-year, $365 million contract, and won the World Series—after they swept the Padres in that NL Division Series.
The Padres countered the following spring by signing Fernando Tatis for 14 years, $340 million, which thus far has paid few dividends because of the shortstop’s injuries.
Then at the 2021 trade deadline, the Padres thought they had grabbed star pitcher Max Scherzer from the Nationals, but the Dodgers prevailed. The Padres missed the playoffs, finishing 11 games out. The Dodgers lost a six-game NL Championship Series to the eventual World Series-winning Atlanta Braves.
That brings us to where the Padres are now after a bevy of trades this week and a $100 million, five-year contract extension to starter Joe Musgrove, a local San Diego product. Tatis, recovering from surgery on a fractured left wrist, could be back sometime this month.
“Without Tatis for the first half of the season we’ve been offensively challenged,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller Tuesday said during a late afternoon media conference. “We’re better now. We think we’ve put ourselves into position where we can play deep into October.”
For the short term, though, the Padres have lost their last 14 of 15 to the Dodgers during the past two seasons, and even with 12 more games to play between the two teams this year, including three at Dodger Stadium this weekend, that NL West race appears to be…