So Long Soto, Bye Bye Bell

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Greetings From The Booth!

Well, the San Diego Padres just got a lot better…and the Washington Nationals just got a lot worse (in the short term). If that’s possible.

In a trade that was expected, the last two Nats who could still put fannies in seats in this lost season, were shipped west for a bundle of prospects, as GM and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo restocks the Nationals’ depleted farm system. Juan Soto, who said no to the Nats’ offer of $440 million over 15 years, and Josh Bell, who was having a solid year in the cleanup spot, were both traded to the Padres, where they will join Manny Machado and company and become instant contenders for a World Series title.

It’s been a tough several years for Nationals fans, who have now lost not one, but two “generational” players to other teams, the other being Bryce Harper. Max Scherzer, my favorite Nat, also exited stage left two seasons ago, and along with Harper, now plays for a division rival. Trea Turner, another bright young star, is now a Dodger. In Juan Soto, the Nationals lose one of the last remaining players from the 2019 World Series team (boy, does that seem like a distant memory). He is a once-in-a-lifetime baseball player who is in the MVP conversation every year. And he wore my team’s jersey.

But even $440 million couldn’t keep Soto in the Nation’s Capital. He wanted to play for a winner, and rebuilding teams rarely win. The prospect of losing 110 games this season was not something Soto was willing to endure. Yes, he could have taken the money and become the core of a young team that could possibly contend in say, 2025, but patience is not a virtue of youth.

As for Bell, he may not have the time or patience. As a veteran player, Bell doesn’t want to linger in the division basement while young players develop in the minors. In truth, he was a hired gun in Washington. As the team continued to be gutted, Bell was a name player who could continue to draw fans to Nationals Park, and was never going to stay in DC long-term. Patience isn’t a virtue of the aging veteran, either.

And, patience certainly isn’t a virtue of sports fans. The Nats’ farm system seems to be getting some very highly-rated prospects from the Soto-Bell trade. But until they get to “The Show” and put on the red and blue jerseys and start getting hits and striking out MLB opponents, that’s all they are–prospects. While the cupboard may not be bare anymore, this Nationals rebuild is a long-term project. Several tough seasons like 2022 are on the way.

Nats’ manager Davey Martinez once said something to the effect of  “rough roads lead to beautiful places.” If you’re a fan of the Washington Nationals, you’d better have 4-wheel drive.

Until the next visit from the Booth…best of luck Juan Soto and Josh Bell…and GO NATS!