While it didn’t have the same flare as another potential deal that lit up the Twitterverse Thursday afternoon, the Padres and Washington Nationals connected on a trade later in the night. San Diego landed right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson to bolster the back of the bullpen for the stretch run in exchange for Mason Thompson and Low-A infielder Jordy Barley.
For the Padres – who were widely reported to be close to landing former Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the afternoon, only to have the deal fall through before Scherzer and Trea Turner went to the Dodgers – Hudson provides World Series experience and strong performance this year, in exchange for a pair of players added during their massive talent acquisition wave in the summer of 2016.
What they gave up
Thompson, 23, made his Major League debut in June. The 6-foot-7 righty worked three big league innings before getting sent back to El Paso on July 4. While always showing some skills to dream on, Thompson ultimately departs the organization with a 5.18 ERA over 186 innings in five years.
The Padres selected Thompson in the third round in 2016, a year after the Texan had undergone Tommy John surgery as a junior in high school. Based on his upside, Thompson secured the equivalent of a supplemental first-round signing bonus to join the Padres.
After a brief 12 inning stint in Arizona in his draft year, Thompson logged seven starts for Fort Wayne in 2017 sandwiched between a pair of injuries, and landed just outside our Top 20. He returned to the Summit City in 2018 and turned in his best season, posting a 4.94 with 97 strikeouts in 93 innings across 22 outings.
Thompson couldn’t build on that success in 2019 though. When he opened the campaign with Lake Elsinore, his velocity was down and he got hit hard in five starts before going on the Injured List. After sitting for three months, he got back to the Storm for a pair of brief outings before getting shut down once again in August.
Despite all the missed time and uninspiring on-field results, the Padres shielded Thompson from the Rule 5 draft by adding him to the 40-man roster last November. We slotted him in at 21 on our Top 25 coming into the year after he didn’t get a mention in any of our individual lists for the two previous years. When he arrived in Peoria this spring, the Padres converted him full-time to a relief role, where some had projected Thompson for several years. In 23 outings for El Paso this season, he posted a 5.74 ERA with 24 strikeouts.
A few weeks after Thompson was drafted, Barley pulled down a $1 million bonus as part of the Padres’ international class bonanza. Barley quickly emerged as one of the most gifted athletes in the organization but showed significantly less in-game skill.
The chasm between Barley’s abilities and performance has never really closed in the five years since. In his first pass at full-season ball this year, the 21-year-old showed flashes of brilliance surrounded by frustrating gaps in performance. In 61 games, he swiped 33 bases, but also committed a staggering 30 errors. He connected on eight homers, yet struck out in 30% of his plate appearances.
Those numbers line up with the production through his first three seasons spent in Arizona and the former Northwest League.
Barley appeared in the back third of five of our individual lists last winter and landed at 17 on our collective list (over the objections of one of us who omitted him completely.)
What they got back
Daniel Hudson, 34, recorded the final out as the Nationals won the 2019 World Series, capping an improbable run. Based on his stellar work in that campaign, he re-signed with Washington prior to 2020, but turned in a season to forget amid the Pandemic. This year, though, the righty has re-established himself as a dominant late-inning arm.
Hudson’s journey to this point began so long ago that he was part of the same Chicago White Sox draft class as Dexter Carter, who was part of the haul when the Padres traded away Jake Peavy. In 2010, he was traded to Arizona for Edwin Jackson – who himself passed through the Padres organization five years ago. After a promising start to his career, Hudson missed over two years with shoulder injuries before remaking himself as a reliever in 2015.
The righty worked in four organizations until settling with the Nationals. This year, he’s producing a career high 38% strikeout rate as a key back-of-the-bullpen arm.
Thompson and Barley both have immense talent, but have never been able to convert it into consistent performance. The Nationals will hope that they can unlock the players’ latent abilities more effectively than the Padres have. Barley will be Rule 5 eligible this winter, though he’s far from being ready for big league action. Thompson will look to build on the brief taste of the Majors he had with the Padres last month. Hudson, meanwhile, will join Matt Strahm as a much-needed reinforcement for a Padres bullpen that has thrown more innings than any other in the game.
Thompson becomes the sixth of the Padres’ first seven selections from that 2016 class to be traded away in the last 18 months. Barley followed fellow middle infielders from the 2016 international class Tucupita Marcano, Gabriel Arias out of the system.