This Sunday, Trea Turner can officially become Washington Nationals’ property. That Turner will serve as the PTBNL in this winter’s trade that sent Wil Myers to the San Diego Padres and Steven Souza to the Tampa Bay Rays has been baseball’s worst kept secret. The Padres could not officially trade their 2014 first-round pick to the Nationals until a full year after his signing.
The Nationals helped to facilitate the deal between the Rays and the Padres because the Rays needed a Major League ready corner outfielder. San Diego did not have one to give, but in Souza, the Nationals had the perfect trade chip — a player with high perceived value and no real role on their team. Washington traded Souza at the perfect time, coming off a minor league season in which he hit nearly 90 points higher than his career minor league average. With a full outfield and Michael Taylor rated higher than Souza, the Nationals capitalized on Souza’s value at exactly the right time. The 26-year-old Souza has played in 55 games for the Rays this season and has struck out 80 times while batting just .211. His .345 average in 2014 was clearly a mirage, and the Nationals flipped him at exactly the right time.
The Padres took on Wil Myers from the Rays to start every day in their outfield. As in 2014, he has already missed a large chunk of time this season due to injury. Myers has played in only 32 games this season. After hitting 37 home runs in the minors in 2012, Myers has not shown that type of home run potential at the big league level. Myers won the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year award over a weak class of rookies. While his resume carries that award, he has not lived up to the hype that followed him over to the Rays’ organization as part of the James Shields trade. If he stays healthy, and that’s a big if, Myers could be a solid, every day type of player, but at this point, it is hard to project him as a future MVP candidate.
For their assistance in making the deal work, the Nationals also received the Padres’ 2011 first-round pick, Joe Ross. Ross has already shot through the Nationals’ system and debuted against the Chicago Cubs last Saturday. He will get his second Major League start this Saturday. Against the light-hitting Milwaukee Brewers he has a very good chance to record his first career win. Ross looked very comfortable on the mound against the Cubs, and did not walk a batter. He was done in by some timely hitting, but overall did not appear fazed by the jump to the Major Leagues. In nine starts for Double-A Harrisburg this season, Ross had a 2.81 ERA and 54 strikeouts against only 12 walks in 51.1 innings. He has a heavy, sinking 95 MPH fastball and a good slider and change-up, and looks like the real deal.
Turner has been an offensive force since being drafted by the Padres out of North Carolina State. In 124 professional games, Turner has a .324/.399/.464 line and has shown good speed and instincts on the bases, with 34 stolen bases in 41 attempts. His glove has also been very good, as Turner has a .980 fielding percentage at shortstop. There were some questions about Turner’s arm strength coming out of college, but he has mostly put those concerns to rest in his career to date. A move to second base, could erase any doubt about his arm strength. At 22-years-old, Turner is very nearly ready for the Majors, and could be a late season addition to the Nationals’ roster.
This absolutely looks like a trade the Nationals will wind up winning, and possibly by a large margin. Ross already looks ready to start full-time in the Major Leagues. His command and confidence on the mound are that impressive. He is likely only up with the big club for a few fill-in starts right now, but could combine with Lucas Giolito to ease any fears the Nationals may have about losing Jordan Zimmermann or Gio Gonzalez in the future. Turner was drafted as a college junior, and while that limits his upside potential, the shortstop prospect does not need much seasoning in the minor leagues. He already has a mature, polished approach at the plate. Turner could absolutely replace Danny Espinosa at second base or Ian Desmond at shortstop in the future should the Nationals tire of either’s high strikeout, low average ways.
The Washington Nationals perfectly executed this trade, and got the most value while giving up the least. They sold high on Steven Souza, a player that did not really fit into their plans, and received two very polished, nearly Major League ready prospects that can fill holes in their lower-tier farm system. It may be a bit premature to declare the Nationals the ultimate winner of this trade, but in two years, when Turner and Ross have established themselves as key members of the Nationals, this trade could look like a blowout win for the D.C. ballclub.