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OK, Who Broke Juan Soto?

Juan Soto suddenly stinks.

Remember when the San Diego Padres won the trade deadline? I am understating it.

"The Padres Didn’t Just Win the Trade Deadline. They Demolished It."

Talk about frozen cold takes. I cannot blame the writer, though. They acquired this generation's Ted Williams in Juan Soto. They got their All-Star closer in Josh Hader. They got another great hitter in Brandon Drury, and a first baseman and good hitter in Josh Bell. They definitely won the trade deadline, right?

Josh Bell is hitting .204 as a Padre. Brandon Drury is hitting .233. Josh Hader has an ERA of 12. Juan Soto—arguably the best hitter in Major League Baseball over the past few seasons, is hitting .202. What a disaster class in players underperforming since their acquisition. In August and September, the Padres are 21-20. Better than a losing record, but if you acquire a list of All-Stars by giving up 4-5 of your best prospects, fans are expecting a better record than 21-20. We could dissect the Padres before the trade deadline until the cows come home, but the biggest question is what happened to Juan Soto?

Que Paso, Juan?

Soto has played 35 games with the Padres. He has three home runs in those 35 games and 22 runs scored. The more glaring numbers are his true production. He has only driven in seven runs and his slash line is .202/.375/.319. His OPS+ is 105, which is just above average. Soto's ability to draw walks is what has given his OPS+ a line above average, but when your slugging percentage is lower than your on-base percentage, that is not pretty. His slash line in Washington was .246/.408/.485. He had 21 home runs in Washington.

What happened? The answer is not clear. My initial reaction to this was perhaps in Washington he had more padding in the lineup. Stop laughing. Yeah, that argument does not hold water. In San Diego, Manny Machado is often batting behind Soto. Machado's production is second to none. Machado is mashing at an elite level. So what is the answer?

San Diego Curse

The Padres have some weird curse on their team. It seems that when they acquire elite players, they no longer perform at an elite level once they put on that Padres uniform. Blake Snell has not been the same pitcher since 2018, but his production since joining the Padres has been wholly inconsistent. Is it a curse? If that is your thing, run with it. I think Hanlon's Razor applies.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

I am not suggesting the Padres organization and staff are stupid. That's just the quote. With that said, the Padres are on their 14th hitting coach since 2000. They have been through three coaches in just a few short years. AJ Preller's aggressiveness in the front office is also seen by many as erratic. It's more likely the problem is the overall culture in the San Diego Padres organization. It is hard to blame anyone in particular, and the Padres have had some bad luck (and choices) from their biggest pieces. Fernando Tatis Jr's steroid and motorbike proclivities speak to a lack of leadership.

This would not explain Soto's dip overall. It may just be a slump. No one coach or staff member would change the success of Soto's incredible talent overnight. Slumps happen, but for it to happen to Soto immediately after joining a new team is just...unexplainable.

Last Thoughts

The Padres are still a dangerous team and Juan Soto is still a hitter any team would be scared to see in the box. The Padres are still hanging on to a wild card spot. In a playoff series, anything can happen. Don't count out the Padres.