SAN DIEGO — Juan Soto arrived at Petco Park promising to bring “good vibes” to the San Diego Padres and giving opposing teams a warning.
Acquiring the 23-year-old generational talent in perhaps the biggest deadline deal in history energized the Padres and their long-suffering fans, and there’s more to come.
Soto and Josh Bell joined a lineup currently anchored by All-Star slugger Manny Machado on Wednesday. Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to return from a broken left wrist within a few weeks.
When that lineup hits the field, “It’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to be very hard to beat and I wish other pitchers good luck,” Soto said with a smile at an introductory news conference.
Soto was batting second and playing right field against Colorado on Wednesday night, a day after being obtained from Washington in a massive trade. Machado was hitting third and switch-hitting first baseman Bell, acquired along with Soto, was hitting cleanup.
Soto received a standing ovation from the fans at Petco when he ran into right field in the top of the first inning.
– MLB (@MLB) August 4, 2022
The price tag for Soto and Bell was significant: rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore, first baseman/DH Luke Voit and prospects James Wood, CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell III and Jarlin Susana.
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo set a high asking price last month after reports surfaced that Soto turned down the team’s last contract offer of $440 million over 15 years.
Uncertainty about his future began to weigh on Soto, who said after Sunday’s game against St. Louis: “I just want to get it over with and see what’s going to happen. Start here or wherever I am.”
That place is San Diego, where the Padres entered the National League’s second wild-card spot Wednesday while trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by 11 1/2 games in the NL West.
Soto, one of the best young hitters in the game, said he was happy Bell was included in the trade. The two flew to San Diego on a private plane Tuesday night.
“For me, I never realized they were going to be traded together. I was probably thinking to myself,” Soto said. “When I found out he was coming over with Josh, we have a great relationship and I was more excited and excited because he’s coming over and I know what kind of person he is and what he brings to the table. I’m beyond excited to share another clubhouse with him. “.
Soto contributed to the Nationals’ first World Series title in 2019 and then hit .351 in 2020 to win the NL batting title. He’s in his second straight All-Star season, and now he and Bell have joined a team whose playoff chances skyrocketed in a big way.
Soto said every conversation with Padres general manager AJ Preller and his new teammates has been, “We’re going to win, let’s bring the good energy to the clubhouse and the stadium, just come out here and try to win.” Try to bring my experience from 2019 as a World Series champion here in San Diego.
“That’s what I’m going to do, that’s what’s on my mind since I saw the trade yesterday. That’s what we’re going to try to do, try to get to the last team standing.”
Soto thinks he’s joining a World Series contender.
“Yes, definitely,” he said. “This team has everything it takes to win a World Series.”
San Diego last played in the World Series in 1998, when it was swept by the New York Yankees.
Soto has a two-year contract beyond this year and said he doesn’t think about anything after that.
“I’m just thinking about winning,” he said. “I just come to this clubhouse to bring the energy that I have, all the good vibes that I have to bring here, to win.”
Soto and Bell are coming from the team with the worst record in baseball to one that has blown their postseason chances.
“It feels great,” Soto said. “He feels very excited to be here. Just coming over from a team that has no chance of getting here, it’s a great feeling, a new vibe, it’s a new start for me. It’s a new start, a new feeling to go out and give more than I have.
Said Bell, “Obviously, we pour our hearts and souls into this game no matter where we are… But it’s a little more fuel on the fire to be here and be on the hunt and have a reason to show up.” a little earlier every day to do the work we need to do. I’m definitely excited to get another chance here.”
Soto and Tatis, who is also 23, have known each other since playing together in the Dominican Prospect League.
“That’s my boy, my hometown boy,” Tatis said Tuesday. “I mean, we played together since we were 15, 16 years old. And now we’re on the same team. He’s crazy.”