Why the Padres’ Lack of Offseason Activity is Acceptable

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The San Diego Padres have been eerily quiet this offseason despite being linked to multiple players. Here is a look at why the slumber is fine as the Padres look to become competitive within the NL West.

It’s not easy to be a San Diego Padres fan right now, and it’s difficult to be optimistic with another rebuilding year looming in the near future.

Despite losing 90+ games for three consecutive years, the Padres have not made any significant moves to improve the major league roster before the start of the 2019 season. The highest paid player on the Padres is Eric Hosmer, which is a shame considering how poorly he played in 2018. He’s making $21 million in 2019, which is three times more than the next highest-paid player on the team. That belongs to Garrett Richards, who will be spending the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Outside of the money being paid to those players, it sure seems like we’re dealing with the same old cheap Padres. You’re surely wondering why all the money is still sitting in Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler’s pockets, right? We haven’t seen playoff baseball in San Diego since 2006, for goodness sake!

With all that in mind, we also need to try to understand the team’s reasoning in being rather quiet throughout this offseason. While it’s easy to understand why the Padres want to hold onto their top prospects rather than dealing them for established major league talents, the question of why the team isn’t spending in free agency is more legitimate.

First of all, this team already has a higher payroll than ten other MLB teams as currently projected. At $67,970,000 in projected payroll thus far, the Padres are not as cheap as we may be tempted to think. That payroll ranks 20th in major league baseball, which is pretty close to average. The Padres’ spending actually rates closer to the middle third of the league in terms of spending, than the bottom third of baseball teams, where the team’s payroll has typically been in previous seasons. There are teams that are spending markedly less money than the Padres — such as the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics, that just won 90 and 97 games last year.

Furthermore, the Padres have actually spent the majority of their money on prospects who are currently developing in the minor leagues on their way to the big leagues. So even if the team’s current spending on the major league roster isn’t as much as we’d like, in reality, the team has simply dedicated more funds towards amateur signees.

Want to know the amount of money the Padres have spent on adding to their farm system in recent years? According to this Baseball America report, the team spent nearly $80 million on their 2016 July 2 class of international amateur signees. They spent an additional $14,866,045 on their 2016 draft signees, per MLB.com. This totals almost $95 million spent on amateur players during just the 2016 season alone, which was more than any other team that year. The team was in the penalty box during the last two international signing periods for overspending their bonus pool in 2016, yet the Padres’ spending during the two most recent drafts has remained high:

Draft Year
Total Signing Bonus Expenditures
2016 $14,866,045
2017 $14,042,200
2018 $11,706,515
Total Expenditures $40,614,760

All of this adds up to around $120 million spent by the Padres on amateur players from 2016-18, which is where the team has clearly spent the majority of their money recently. We shouldn’t be too worried about the team’s lack of spending on the major league team when they are committing significant funds towards their prospect pipeline, after all.

During the 2016-18 seasons, the Padres were clearly rebuilding, and thus it made sense for the team to invest in amateur talent at the time. With the team currently set to embark upon a fourth straight season of losing, is it time for the front office to begin putting more money into the major league team? Many top prospects have reached the major leagues recently, or are expected to arrive at some point during the 2019 season. The 2015 Cubs and Astros come to mind as teams with prospects, that turned their rebuilds around more quickly than most expected, and made it to the playoffs. Could the Padres follow in their footsteps with the right free agent signings this offseason?

Realistically, the Padres can’t necessarily expect to improve as much as the aforementioned Cubs and Astros. Unless multiple players on the roster take a significant step forward in 2019, this current Padres roster is not ready to contend. Even optimistically assuming that the Padres improved markedly as a team next season, they’d probably win around 75 games. Even if the Padres signed Bryce Harper today, they would probably increase their 2019 record by around 5-7 wins. That’s without mentioning the financial implications of paying an expensive free agent such as Harper. As a team in a smaller market, the Padres must be careful about the contracts they hand out to players in free agency.

With regard to trades, the team must also be careful not to give away top prospects in deals for star major leaguers. While it may be nice to have a player such as Kluber or Realmuto for two or three years, is it worth giving up a guy who could be a star for 6-7 seasons? Probably not, and especially in the case of the Padres, who have less margin for error than larger market teams do. Also worth noting, is that the Padres still have time to make deals with remaining free agents, and to complete trades for impact players. In a year or two, we’ll start to see the fruits of the Padres’ farm system at the major league level. At that point in time, we’ll finally understand fully why Preller held onto so many prized prospects for so long.

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Conrad Parrish
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.

8 thoughts on “Why the Padres’ Lack of Offseason Activity is Acceptable

  1. I have no desire for the rookies to be traded away unless it is a equivalent trade in value that goes beyond the 2020 season. A.J. seemely has the ability to judge minor league talent, major league not so much. I look at Washington especially as an example of a team that had more talent then we could likely build for 2018 even if we traded our top 5 prospects away. Didn’t make the playoffs. We’ve done the sell talent away at the start of Preller’s stewardship and I got excited for the first time in years. I would be angry if they went that route again.
    I like that they are trying to build the team with quality players (who may not be playing as good as wanted-yet who will be positive hard working examples to the youngesters coming up. Continue please in building a strong foundation for future runs. I don’t just want one or 2 playoff years (maybe-ha), I want a run leading to finally the golden ticket!

  2. I agree with the piece, Conrad. No rash moves need to be made. Timeline for contention was 2020 anyway. A little more patience is needed.

  3. Article reads like a propaganda piece.
    The off season isn’t over yet, but a lack of off season activity is only acceptable if you have the perfect roster with no needs of any kind.
    Think that applies to the Padres?
    Let’s have a brief recap:
    Worst franchise in the history of modern MLB, winning percentage .461
    History of lying, tight-fisted front offices
    A GM who has been suspended twice by MLB
    An awful 25 man roster, filled with unwatchable players
    So far there’s no reason for optimism.
    Then you tout the party line about the farm system. Not exactly incisive analysis.
    The reality is this team has no SS, no 3Bman, a rotation full of rookies and question marks, an OF full of one dimensional players, and it’s 3 highest paid players are a negative WAR 1Bman, a pitcher rehabbing from TJ surgery, and low intensity guy with no position.
    This is the equivalent of a backed up toilet.
    Preller should be wheeling and dealing to improve this team for 2019, and instead his biggest moves are adding a pitcher who won’t play in 2019, and a stopgap, 36 year old infielder.
    This is the essence of taking the fan base for granted. Oh we’ll be great in 2020, or 2021, or…
    We should be trying to sign Machado or Harper, trading Myers and half the guys off the 25 man roster. And no more damn catchers!

    1. Come on, Tom, look at the team’s young players who have just a year or three of major league experience. Manual Margot had a promising rookie season, but regressed in ’18. Was it a fluke? Sophomore junx? We’ll find out in ’19. Same thing with Hunter Renfroe, who has hit 26 homers each of the last two years, despite being sent down both years. He’s improved his approach, and was good for 2.4 WAR. His continued improvement in ’19 will tell the Padres what they have in him.

      Then there’s Luis Urias. He didn’t get much experience in ’18, but needs a full year for the Padres to gauge his value. We can expect to see his double-play mate Tatis Jr. sometime after mid-June, and that’s another in-progress development that needs to be explored on the field in ’19. Tatis Jr. may well be preceded by Javy Guerra, who hasn’t shown much bat but is a gifted glove at shortstop. It’s time to see him play so Preller and team can make a decision on him.

      There are questions about Franchy competing for centerfield with Margot. He missed most of last year, and how he bounces back will determine his future. Then there’s Franmil Reyes, who made huge strides with the bat, pointing to potential for a midd of the oder bat the Padres sorely need. The question on him is whether his bat is potent enough to overlook his shortcomings in right field, and whether he can improve enough defensively.

      The young pitching that has arrived is NOT the best of the farm, but has respectable potential. Lucchesi was the best of the bunch, but needs to make strides in ’19. Lauer was effective in spots, but inconsistent. Preller needs to see a move toward consistency to make a judgement about him. Both Kennedy and Nix had inauspicious beginnings, but both have talent enough to stick in the majors. They both need to bounce back to determine their futures, as does Brian Mitchell, who came back from injury to make a couple starts more in line with what was expected. Was that a fluke? Preller needs to find out before disposing of his roster spot.

      Speaking of roster spots, there are several pitchers in triple A almost ready for their callups, including Logan Allen, Cal Quantrill, and Chris Paddack. If Myers can’t handle third base, we need to see if Ty France can make the jump. We also need to see if relievers Stock and Castillo can sustain their early success, whether Maton can take a step forward, and if Strahm and Erlin are swingmen or pure relievers.

      That’s a lot of questions that need to be answered, and 2019 is the year everyone gets their chance to prove they belong on the Padres’ next winning team. That’s why there’s little activity except for salting the team with short term veterans like Garcia and Kinsler. The Cubs and Astros did the same before they became contenders. The teardown began in mid-2015 and we’re 3-1/2 years into a five year rebuild. If you want to see substantive changes, you’ll have to wait until the questions have been answered and Preller knows what holes can’t be filled internally.

  4. Talking about amature spending is absolutely ridiculous, and adding in dead money being paid to guys who aren’t on the team, as a way to prop up the payroll to $68mil is also ridiculous. The payroll of the guys on the 25 man will be among the bottom 5-6 in the league. Saying anything other than that is dishonest

  5. It’s very rare touted prospects become anything, let alone stars. Here is an interesting article that shows just how unpredictable prospects are. I’ve been enjoying the hoarding of prospects now for the last 3-4 years, however, we need to parlay them into bona fide players w a high ceiling. I’m really surprised we are not trying to sign Machado. He really is a perfect fit for our team. Of course I’d rather wait a year and sign Arenado, but he’s going to be a player everyone is in on. Machado and Harper for that matter, are 2 of the best free agents ever to hit the market. Machados floor is the highest probably of any player and he’s only 26. With his defense, I think k he’d be a perfect compliment to Tatis who may not have the range you’d like from a SS. With his playoff antics, it drove the price down. If we could sign him to a 10/300 contract I’d do it. Yes the padres are a small market team that can’t afford to strike out on a player that costs that much, but all that means is we still suck for another 10 years. We need to take some calculated risks. Hosmer was a monumental mistake, but this could rectify it.

    Now if we signed Machado, traded for Kluber and signed Kikuchi, we’d have a very good rotation in 2020, w Kluber signed to two more years. I like Realmuto, but only if we could extend him prior to agreeing on a trade.

  6. Please, AJ, no big swaps or expensive free agent signings. Stick to what you and Darrin are good at, which is finding good arms that can be refurbished, then flipped at the trade deadline. Do what you are good at……

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