Three of the six players the Nationals acquired from the Padres this week, all of them age 18-20, won’t be sniffing the major leagues for some time. The other three, though, are poised to join the club before season’s end, one of them as soon as tonight.
Luke Voit, the lone veteran to be included in the blockbuster deal that sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego, is scheduled to meet the team in Philadelphia and will probably be in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Phillies.
The 31-year-old will see time both at first base and designated hitter the rest of the way, according to manager Davey Martinez. Though he had pedestrian numbers this season with the Padres (a .225/.317/.416 slash line with 13 homers and 48 RBIs in 344 plate appearances), Voit’s .733 OPS is as good as anyone currently in the Nats lineup.
Over parts of six big league seasons with the Cardinals, Yankees and Padres, Voit owns a strong .838 OPS and 86 homers. He led the American League with 22 homers and finished ninth in MVP voting during the condensed 2020 season.
And because he’s under club control through 2024 (same as Soto), Voit could figure into the Nationals’ plans beyond this year.
“I talked to him on the phone yesterday and I told him we’re getting young here, and I expect him to come in here and give good effort, but help the younger players as well,” Martinez said. “He’s been in the league for quite some time. We could definitely use your bat in our lineup. You can hit. I’m looking forward to getting to know him, getting him into the lineup and … get him going. He’s excited to be coming here. It’s a little different for him, but he says he’s going to do everything he can to help us win games here, which is awesome.”
Voit will be the first former Padre to join the Nationals’ active roster. C.J. Abrams will probably be the next, perhaps in only a week or two once the 21-year-old shortstop gets his feet wet and gets comfortable in the organization at Triple-A Rochester.
A dynamic young infielder, Abrams struggled at times after being thrust into San Diego’s lineup after Fernando Tatis Jr. was injured, hitting .232/.285/.320 over 139 plate appearances. His overall numbers in parts of three minor league seasons (.334/.388/.522) have been excellent, and the Nationals believe it’s only a matter of time before he takes off at the major league level for them.
“We’ll see where we’re at in a week or so and go from there,” Martinez said. “I don’t know what the plan is for him right now. I’ll talk to (general manager Mike Rizzo) as this goes forward. I’m sure we’re going to see him at some point. I don’t know when that is. But we want him to go down there, get acclimated to the East Coast again, get him everyday at-bats and get him ready to come back here and help us win.”
The Nationals will actually see MacKenzie Gore before they see Abrams, with the 23-year-old left-hander expected to be in Philadelphia today to join his new teammates. Gore, though, is on the 15-day injured list with left elbow inflammation, so his visit will be to meet the coaching and training staffs and be examined by team doctors to determine a rehab plan.
In 16 games with the Padres (13 of them starts) this season, Gore went 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA, striking out 72 while walking 37 in 70 innings. His ERA actually stood at a minuscule 1.50 in early June before he was roughed up in three of his final five starts before going on the IL.
Assuming he’s healthy, Gore figures to pitch for the Nationals before season’s end. But they won’t force the issue if they don’t believe he’s ready.
“I don’t want to rush him in any way,” Martinez said. “I want him to continue to progress. We want to see where he’s at. He’s going to see our trainers and stuff and get examined, and then after that we’ll go from there. I know he pitched a lot in the beginning, so we’ll see how we’re going to handle this moving forward. The good news is, we have him, and he’s here. I watched a lot of video of him, and he’s a good one. He’s going to help us.”
The three younger prospects the Nationals acquired are all set to join various lower-level affiliates with their new organization. Outfielder Robert Hassell III will report to high Single-A Wilmington, with fellow outfielder James Wood going to low Single-A Fredericksburg. Right-hander Jarlin Susana, 18, will begin pitching at the Nationals’ rookie league complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., then likely will be bumped up to Fredericksburg.