There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres have money to spend for the 2018 season.
How and where they will spend that money is what is currently up for debate. Of course the team will sign some players, but they must do so with investments that are low-risk. In my opinion, they should not offer very many multi-year deals at this point, but must instead find undervalued players and hopefully sign and flip them when it is appropriate. That is the winning game plan.
The payroll is presently at around $53.7 million, but it will climb. Wil Myers ($7.5 million), Yangervis Solarte ($4 million), Clayton Richard ($4 million), Brad Hand ($3.8 million), Cory Spangenberg ($2 million), Carter Capps ($1.3 million), and Kirby Yates ($1.1 million) make up the majority of the current payroll. That’s a little over $23 million for those seven players.
The Padres owe Jedd Gyorko ($2.5 million), Hector Olivera ($6.5 million), and James Shields ($11 million) for the 2018 season. Sadly, that’s $20 million in total invested into that trio. The Royals are paying $5.95 million to the Padres towards Travis Wood‘s contract ($6.5 million) for 2018, so that is a positive. Matt Kemp is off the books, but Oliveras’ contract will be a burden for the next three seasons. This is thankfully the last year of the Shields commitment, but the team will need to pay $3 million towards Jedd Gyorko‘s salary for the 2019 season.
The team has payroll flexibility at the moment and in the future, but you have to wonder how gun-shy they would be about making a big investment. Even though the signing of James Shields resulted in the acquisition of Fernando Tatis Jr., the deal was bad from the start. Shields immediately regressed with his skill and the Padres were left holding the bag. More often than not when signing a free agent, you pay for what they have done, not what they will do. That’s the sad truth in this modern era of the game dominated by players opting out and agents demanding more money. Thankfully, A.J. Preller was able to turn a negative into a positive (in the Shields deal) with the young Tatis addition, but in reality the Padres were very lucky.
The Eric Hosmer rumors are still swirling. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Padres are indeed looking into Hosmer, though they have yet to make a formal offer to the slugger. Hosmer is looking for someone around the $150-170 million mark in a contract, and that seems excessive. He is a good player, but paying him as if he is a great player could be hazardous for a team looking to rebuild for the future. Especially if signing him comes at the cost of a top draft pick.
Zack Cozart is another interesting option on the open market. The Padres need a shortstop in the worst way. They have the money to spend, but is Cozart worth a $30-40 million investment? He is coming off a career year and seems unlikely to reproduce his offensive numbers in a less favorable ball park. Again, the team should stay away from long-term investments until they are ready to compete for a World Title. The time for long-term deals and big-time investments will come.
The 2019 free agent class is gonna be huge. The Padres could save up and make a run at Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or Josh Donaldson. They could also potentially bring in Dallas Keuchel, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, or Charlie Blackmon. All are free agents, but we are talking about 12 months from now. With money to spend now, do we automatically assume that they will spend immediately? Not so fast.
In cultivating a winning way and formulating a team to survive for the long-term, you must make sacrifices. You cannot just throw money around on players that will only make your team average. Finishing in the middle of the overall final standing only assures you of a middle-tier draft pick. The Astros and Cubs only gained relevancy after losing 100 games a year for a couple of seasons. They needed those high selections to stockpile high draft picks.
Unlike those two franchises, the Padres are not built to lose 100 games for a few seasons. The 2017 season is about as bad as it should get here for a while and the end result was a 71-91 team. The 2018 team could lose a few more games in the long run (because you never know in the game of baseball), but the Padres are definitely a franchise trending upwards. Earning top-five draft picks will not, and is not, a goal of this team. They already rebuilt their farm system through trades and international signings. The $80 million the Friars spent during the 2016-17 market brought them Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, Jorge Ona, Luis Almanzar, and countless others. The way the Padres staggered the prized youngsters in terms of their skill and age provided the team with instant high-tiered prospects.
If Shohei Otani decides to come to San Diego, the window might open sooner than expected. The Padres are built for the long run and he recognizes that fact. With his addition to the top of the rotation, the Padres could be in an area where they attempt to compete sooner than expected. As soon as 2018, perhaps? That would be exciting and a lot of things would need to take place for this to happen, but it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Not with A.J. Preller at the helm.
The Padres have money to spend, but they can go in many different ways. Not even those that pull the strings know exactly what will take place at this moment. They could be very active in the next few months as the team is structured for 2018. If a miracle takes place and the Padres are able to secure the services of Shohei Ohtani, then expect the team to be very active in securing talent to play around him. Whether that means taking on players via trade or dipping into the free agent pool, they will be active. No matter what happens, the Padres and A.J. Preller will surely have the city of San Diego talking about their Padres. Kudos to the franchise for securing the G.M. for three addition seasons. He and his staff have done well to turn the sleepy baseball town into one of MLB relevancy.