PHILADELPHIA – The aftermath of the trade deadline is sometimes just as chaotic for players as the actual trades. Once the deals are done, players have to pack up their belongings, say their goodbyes and sometimes uproot their families to move to another city and get acclimated to a whole new clubhouse.
That was the case for Luke Voit and MacKenzie Gore, two of the six players the Nationals received for trading Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres on Tuesday. The pair not only had to deal with all of the logistics of being traded, but they also had to travel across the country (each by way of different red-eye flights) and meet their new team on the road in a different city.
Voit wasn’t the Nationals’ first choice as the veteran to be included in the trade. With the five prospects already agreed upon and Bell packaged with Soto, the Nationals originally sought veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer to fill the void at first base. But Hosmer exercised the no-trade clause in his contract as the Nationals were one of the 10 teams he would need to give permission to be traded to.
That didn’t derail the deal, however, as the Nats were satisfied in pivoting to Voit to complete the trade and Hosmer was sent to the Red Sox. Voit found out before the Padres’ unusual doubleheader at Petco Park against the Rockies on Tuesday.
“Obviously, a little bit surprising,” Voit said in front of his new locker with a No. 34 above it. “Obviously, you never know what can happen in this game. There was kind of a weird trade going on, with the no-trade clause with Hos. I obviously didn't expect to get traded and then right before our doubleheader, I found out like 10 minutes before the game. You know what, it's a fresh start. It's a lot of new faces. I'm excited about a new opportunity.”
Voit, the lone veteran going back to the Nationals in the mega deal, is familiar with this process, having been traded twice before in his career. The 31-year-old went from the Cardinals to the Yankees at the 2018 deadline and then was traded to the Padres this past March. Now he’s ready to step into a leadership role right away, understanding he’s in a different situation on a much younger team.
“I've always tried to be a leader throughout my whole career,” he said. “Obviously, being with St. Louis, New York and now San Diego, it's a little different. Obviously, it was fun being in that playoff rush with San Diego and I know we're out of it already here. But we got 60ish games left, so gotta make the most of it. I'm excited to learn about a lot of these new teammates, coaches. And I'm gonna go out there and be a blue-collar guy, work my butt off and try to get as many wins as we can for this team.”
The right-handed bat has a career slash line of .258/.348/.490 with an .838 OPS, 86 home runs and 251 RBIs. In 82 games with the Padres this year, he slashed .225/.317/.416 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs. With Soto and Bell now in San Diego, Voit’s .733 OPS is tied with Luis García for the best of any current National with significant playing time. Voit is batting third tonight and playing first base in tonight's series opener against the Phillies.
“It's just because this is a younger team, and I'm surprised they wanted a veteran guy,” Voit said. “But I'm here to help out in any way I can. And obviously, I want to play this game as long as I can, so I'm excited to come over here and rake with these guys and obviously be a leader in the clubhouse and help these young guys become the best that they can be.
Gore also took a red-eye flight across the country and arrived in the Nationals clubhouse tired and still trying to process the last 72 hours.
“It's been a lot. It's been crazy,” Gore said of the past couple of days. “I'm sure it's been the same over here. So yeah, a lot has happened the last two days. I'm looking forward to what's next.”
Like Voit, Gore was at Petco Park getting ready for the doubleheader when he first heard of the trade.
“I was at the field,” he said. “So we had a doubleheader and I was there kind of getting the day going, and then it kind of happened. So yeah, crazy day. Yeah so, looking forward to getting started here.”
In 16 games (13 starts) with the Padres this season, Gore went 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 37 walks over 70 innings.
With this trade, Gore left the only organization he’s ever known after being the No. 3 overall pick by the Padres in the 2017 MLB Draft, making it hard for him to leave the West Coast.
“Yeah, it was emotional,” Gore said of leaving the Padres. “I mean, San Diego has kind of been home since I was 18. A lot of people in that organization. So yeah, it was an emotional day. But I was excited going with teammates and a little closer to home. So there's a lot of positives. But yeah, it was emotional.”
The 23-year-old left-hander is on the 15-day injured list with left elbow inflammation, so he’s here to meet with team coaches, trainers and doctors to come up with a rehab plan.
“It was just some discomfort. … It's minor,” Gore said of his injury. “So yeah, everything's fine. Just kind of getting strength back and getting everything 100 percent and should be fine.
Gore didn’t have a lot of time to meet with the Nationals trainers and set up a recovery plan for him. He’s barely had time to meet all of his new teammates. But he will remain with the Nationals throughout this week-long road trip as he continues to get acclimated and evaluated.
“Yeah, kind of get settled in,” he said. “We're getting started, but nothing's set in stone yet. But I'm gonna try to get out here as quick as I can.”
There is a chance Gore will be ready to join the rotation before the end of the season, but the Nationals will be cautious with their new prized pitching prospect.
“The biggest thing that we've talked about is getting him healthy and getting him right,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We feel like he can help us for a very, very long time. But we're gonna take it slow with him and make sure that when he comes back, he's back for good. And we have no other issues. So he understands that.”
But his first in-person meeting with his two new players was positive and each understands why they were brought here.
“It was awesome,” Martinez said. “Just gave them a little bit of what we are doing here and what we're trying to do. And how they both fit really nicely with what we're trying to do. So it was a great conversation. They're both very, very good young gentlemen. Both can help us in a big way. So we’re excited. I know I'm excited to put Luke in the lineup today, and excited that MacKenzie is here and he's going to help us in the future and he's a big part of our future as well.”
* Nelson Cruz remains out of the lineup for the second straight game due to a stiff neck. Martinez hopes the 42-year-old designated hitter will feel well enough to possibly pinch-hit tomorrow, and if not, hopefully play tomorrow.
* Erick Fedde threw a bullpen session today, but Martinez hadn’t heard how it went yet. The right-hander has been on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation since July 30 (retroactive to July 27), so he’ll be eligible to return next week.