In an 11-player, three-team deal that hinged mostly on 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, the Nationals managed to pry away a potential shortstop of the future without hurting their chances of contending in 2015. The Nationals will send Steven Souza Jr. and minor league left-hander Travis Ott to the Tampa Rays for shortstop Trea Turner, the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft, and right-handed pitching prospect Joe Ross, according to a person familiar with the deal.
The trade, first reported by ESPN’s Jim Bowden, is agreed upon pending physicals. Myers, the key figure in the deal, will go to San Diego.
The deal nets Washington a potential replacement for shortstop Ian Desmond, a free agent after next season. More importantly, the Nationals were able to land Turner without dealing starters Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann — both will also be free agents after next season and have been much frequent topics of trade discussion this offseason. The deal allows the Nationals to deal from a position of strength (outfield depth) and give them the top-flight shortstop prospect they have lacked, to pair with Wilmer Difo, their potential second baseman of the future.
Souza, 25, will long be remembered for his diving catch to preserve Zimmermann’s no-hitter, arguably the greatest play in team history. Projected as a corner outfielder, he had no clear path to the majors with the Nationals outfield of Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Bryce Harper established.
Souza was a late-blooming outfield prospect with a winding career path who had a breakout season at Class AAA Syracuse and was named the International League MVP. He was called up to the majors a handful of times this season, hitting .130 (3 for 23) with two home runs in limited action. But he showed the flashes of potential: a combination of speed and power. After proving all he could at Syracuse last season, he was likely headed for the Nationals bench this season.
Because of league rules, Turner is technically a “player to be named later” in this trade. Draft picks are prohibited from being traded within a year of signing, so Turner will not be able to join the Nationals organization until June 13, 2015. Turner, who played three years at North Carolina State, impressed in his first months of professional ball, moving from short-season Eugene to Class A Fort Wayne after 23 pro games. In 46 games with Fort Wayne, he hit .369/.447.529 with four homers, 14 doubles, and 14 stolen bases. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder’s speed is rated by Baseball America as an 80 grade on the scouting scale of 20 to 80. MLB.com rated him as the No. 5 prospect in the Padres system.
Ross, who was drafted 25th overall in 2011, split time between Class A Lake Elsinore and AA San Antonio last year, starting 22 games and posting 106 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings with a 3.92 ERA. In his four Class AA outings, Ross struck out 19 and walked one. The Nationals already have a deep pool of pitching prospects and Ross, rated by MLB.com as the 8th best Padres prospect, only adds to it.
Ott, a 25th round pick in 2013, went 1-4 in 13 starts between short-season Class A Auburn and Class A Hagerstown last season, with a 3.93 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 55 innings.
By inserting itself into a trade between the Padres and the Rays, the Nationals have addressed a need, built up their organizational depth and still kept their 2015 major league team intact for now.
— Barry Svrluga contributed.