The San Diego Padres Continue to Mock Conventional Wisdom

Ryan Phillips
Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox / Winslow Townson/GettyImages
facebooktwitter

We've seen a consistent pattern emerge over the past four years: pundits explaining the constraints the San Diego Padres face as a "small market" Major League Baseball team just before the Friars firebomb those expectations. It happened again Wednesday night, as Padres owner Peter Seidler and general manager A.J. Preller once again told conventional wisdom to get lost.

The Padres signed All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million deal, leaving many across baseball slack-jawed. After going hard after Trea Turner and Aaron Judge, San Diego finally landed its next big bat in Bogaerts. Yes, the contract is long and will take the five-time Silver Slugger into his 40s, but Padres' management simply doesn't care. Bogaerts is on a path that compares favorably to several Hall of Famers, and San Diego wanted his bat in the club's already potent lineup. So Preller and Seidler got their man, cost be damned. It's a repeated pattern with the franchise's management group.

Conventional wisdom said the Padres couldn't afford the $300 million Manny Machado would command in 2019 and that the big-market Chicago White Sox were going to land him.

Nope.

Conventional wisdom suggested San Diego would have to trade Fernando Tatis Jr. away before he hit free agency because the franchise simply didn't have the cash necessary to sign him to a long-term deal.

Wrong.

Conventional wisdom was the Padres would be giving up their farm for Juan Soto knowing they would only have him through the 2024 season because they obviously knew they couldn't lock him up long-term.

Actually, they plan to do just that.

Conventional wisdom led many to believe the Padres would never sign another shortstop to a massive contract because they were already at their spending limit.

Xander Bogaerts says hi.

Folks, it's time to recognize conventional wisdom no longer applies to the San Diego Padres.

In the two days since the Bogaerts deal, I've seen a flood of takes about the franchise's finances. Some are suggesting the Padres made this move because they expect Machado to opt out of his contract and take off after the 2023 season. Others believe the Padres did this because they know they're losing Soto after 2024, so this locks in a bat for when he's gone. Still others are suggesting the franchise will now turn around and trade Tatis away. The people in the Padres organization I have talked to all find these discussions amusing. Because precisely none of that is true.

The Padres do expect Machado to opt out after next season, but no one inside the organization thinks he's going anywhere. They plan to lock up their star and clubhouse leader then -- unless they rework his deal before he hits the open market. None of them expect Machado to ever wear a different uniform.

As I reported the day the Padres swung that massive trade for Soto, they didn't bring him in as a two-year rental. Seidler and Preller acquired him with the goal of locking him up long-term. He may hit free agency in 2024, but the Padres plan to pay what it takes to keep him in San Diego. Maybe he chooses to go elsewhere, but it won't be because the Padres believe it's inevitable.

When it comes to Tatis: yes he's shown his immaturity. After a broken wrist suffered in a motorcycle accident and a positive test for a banned substance kept him out for all of 2022, it would be easy to assume the franchise was done with the 23-year-old. Again, that's simply not the case. Seidler has publicly stood by his star and the franchise has seen signs of a much-needed increase in his maturity over the last few months. Besides, Tatis has as much upside as any player in Major League Baseball. His career OPS is .965 and he hasn't even hit his prime yet. He's not going anywhere.

The concern over having all those massive contracts on one ledger is fair. On Thursday, I asked a Padres source how the team planned to pay for all those big deals. His answer shocked me in its simplicity: "Well, Seidler's a billionaire so ..."

It really is that easy to understand. Seidler is wealthy enough to own a Major League Baseball team, so of course he can afford huge contracts. He has publicly said he can't take his wealth with him and feels an obligation to provide a winner for San Diego's fans. Given Seidler's personal fortune, the increased revenue consistently full stadiums are providing, revenue generated by a jersey ad deal with Motorola, and upcoming stadium naming rights negotiations, there's more than enough money for the Padres to sign whoever they want. The lesson here isn't that the Padres are crazy, it's that every other MLB team could be doing the same thing.

Yes, what the Padres have done is "unconventional" but only because those conventions are hilariously outdated.

Why would San Diego sign another shortstop when it already has three (Tatis, Ha-seong Kim, Jake Cronenworth)? Because with the shift banned beginning in 2023, infielders who can cover tons of ground will be at a premium. Kim and Bogaerts were Gold Glove finalists at shortstop in 2022, while Cronenworth and Machado were finalists at second base and third base respectively. When Tatis returns, the Padres will almost certainly move him -- and his howitzer of an arm -- to right field, allowing Soto to shift to his more natural left field. Trent Grisham, who won his second Gold Glove in 2022, will man center field between the two star sluggers.

Is the plan starting to make sense?

In addition to the stellar defense, the Padres now boast arguably the best top four hitters in Major League Baseball -- and one of the best groups ever. The career-highs in fWAR for Tatis (7.3 in 2021), Soto (7.0 in 2021), Machado (7.4 in 2022) and Bogaerts (6.1 in 2022) have all come within the last two years. Barring a crazy development, they should all eclipse 5.0 WAR this season, a feat no team has accomplished since the 2016 Boston Red Sox.

The Padres have gone all-in as they attempt to bring a championship to San Diego. They haven't just talked about making big moves, they've gone out and made them. Repeatedly. Seidler's commitment to winning should be a model for other MLB owners to follow. Sadly, we know they won't. Conventional wisdom will remain stagnant while the Padres continue to scoff at it.

Good for them.

facebooktwitter