BLEARY-EYED AND SLEEP-DEPRIVED, their five-o'clock shadows looking more like 10, A.J. Preller and Mike Rizzo lurched into their offices on opposite coasts early Tuesday morning ready to do the unthinkable. Pulling off the biggest trade in the century-and-a-half-long history of Major League Baseball had taken the two general managers to the brink of exhaustion -- and done the same to Juan Soto, the superstar outfielder who in a few hours would be dealt by Rizzo's Washington Nationals to Preller's San Diego Padres. For a deal so complicated, so consequential, so tectonic, though, an unfamiliar feeling that morning overwhelmed the principals of such a massive endeavor: peace.
For months, soothsayers around the game acknowledged the possibility that Soto, a 23-year-old whose hitting prowess draws fair comparisons to the greatest ever, could be traded. This weighed on the minds of all involved: Rizzo, whose résumé potentially could include the ignominy of trading a future Hall of Famer; Preller, who for nearly a decade had coveted Soto but understood acquiring him would come at the cost of a farm system he had carefully cultivated; and Soto, who so envisioned himself a career National that he had bought his first home in the area earlier this year.
Trades are inherently uncomfortable things, bets on an unknowable future, and the one they'd agreed upon in the wee hours of the night was the mother of all deals, a six-for-two swap that would send Soto and first baseman Josh Bell to the Padres for the richest bounty of prospect talent ever assembled in one transaction. It was paradoxical, a move that simultaneously made all the sense in the world and felt positively senseless.
Some deals come together quickly and painlessly. This was not one of them. As happy and fulfilled as everyone involved wound up, getting there took work. Making the biggest trade in baseball history was a process: getting the right players to satisfy both parties and avoiding the fate that befell a trade between the teams a year earlier.
Not this time. After weeks of discussion, countless hours of working on different variations of a deal, they found comfort in their discomfort, tranquility in the chaos and a trade for the ages.