- The Washington Times - Friday, December 19, 2014

The Nationals finalized an 11-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres on Friday, sending outfielder Steven Souza to Tampa Bay while netting pitching prospect Joe Ross and a player to be named later.

The player is expected to be shortstop Trea Turner, a first-round pick in June’s draft who could not be named in the deal because he cannot technically be traded until a year after he was drafted.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo called it a “unique situation” but could not delve into specifics. 

“There’s some trust factor that’s involved with us and the Padres,” Rizzo said. “It’s a unique situation that hasn’t been done before. I’ve never done it before, and I’ve been doing this thing for a long time. We’re going to trust each other and do what’s right by the player. We’ll monitor that player quite closely, and we trust that the Padres will do right by him and do the right thing.”

Rizzo said the Nationals will choose from a list of Padres players to complete the deal, though he declined to go into specifics about that list. It would presumably give the Nationals an alternative to Turner should he suffer a serious injury between now and June. 

Turner split his season between short-season Eugene and Single-A Fort Wayne last year, hitting a combined .323 with a .406 on-base percentage, .448 slugging percentage, 45 runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 69 games. He is best known for his speed and was considered one of San Diego’s top prospects.

The Nationals also acquired Ross, a 21-year-old who made 22 starts between Single-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. Rizzo said Ross has two plus-plus pitches with a rapidly improving changeup.

“We’ve seen him quite often, which is always a good thing. We had a lot of our top scouts that had seen him in the past,” Rizzo said. “He’s the type of pitcher that we covet. He’s a big, physical right-handed pitcher. He’s got good stuff. He throws hard. And he’s got a good assortment of pitches in his repertoire.”

The deal centered around 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, who was sent from Tampa Bay to San Diego. The Rays acquired five players in exchange, including Souza and minor league pitcher Travis Ott from the Nationals.

Rizzo said trade discussions with the Padres began at the general manager meetings and carried over to the winter meetings earlier this month. He also pointed out the rarity of three-team deals with this many moving parts. 

“We felt that there was a framework for a bigger deal that could give all three teams what they were looking for,” Rizzo said. “It was a deal that was fairly complicated. It was something that has not been done many times in the history of baseball, and something that we really had to think through.”

In the process, the Nationals dealt away Souza, their minor league player of the year from a season ago. The outfielder will be most remembered for his no-hitter-saving catch in the team’s regular-season finale, a sprawling grab with two outs in the ninth inning to secure Jordan Zimmermann’s historic feat.

“Very emotional day today Praise God for being apart of such a high class Organization. Thank you for giving me such a great opportunity,” Souza tweeted Friday afternoon. “DC you will always have a place in my heart. So pumped to join the Rays and start this new journey. Tampa lets go win a World Series!”

Rizzo said the Nationals had not planned to trade Souza, who had garned significant interest from several teams since the end of the season, but ultimately felt comfortable with the move given Washington’s minor-league outfield depth.

“It’s never easy trading one of your own. This is a guy that we drafted, signed, developed and grew with us,” Rizzo said. “It was a tough guy to make the phone call, when we told him he was traded. It was a very emotional call between Steven and I because we’ve gone through a lot of things together. I’m just excited about the opportunity he’s going to get.”

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