“After taking out a $50 million loan…”
One of the surprising things about the 2023-2024 Major League Baseball free agency market is how little “Mad Men” San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller is shouting. San Diego has been aggressively pursuing free agents for years, chanting “Overthrow the Los Angeles Dodgers,” with little to show for it. It’s hard to be satisfied with beating the Dodgers in the National League Division Series in 2022 and advancing to the Championship Series.
There’s a saying that goes something like this: “A stork follows a stork and gets its crotch ripped off. San Diego has been a game-changer in recent years, signing internal stars to multi-year, non-free agent contracts, making hot free agent signings, and making bold trades. However, the team was shocked after the season when it was revealed that it had taken out a $50 million loan to keep the team afloat.
The prospect of dropping the payroll from around $250 million this year to around $200 million next year has been accepted as a given. San Diego hasn’t made any outside signings since free agency opened. Rather, the Padres cut Juan Soto (25, New York Yankees), who is expected to make $33 million next year, a year ahead of free agency.
Getting rid of Soto would definitely free up payroll. Add in the loss of Trent Grisham to the Yankees, and the outfield is wide open. Still, there are calls to trade Ha-Sung Kim, 28, who, like Soto, is a year away from free agency and will want at least $100 million in a year.
Bleacher Report breaks down the winners and losers at the midway point of the offseason on Aug. 20. The San Diego Padres can take solace in the fact that the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays, who both failed in their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani (29, LA Dodgers), at least tried their best.
San Diego, however, is effectively stuck. Internal free agents Michael Wakawa and Seth Lugo went to the Kansas City Royals and Nick Martinez to the Cincinnati Reds. Josh Hader and Blake Snell are still unsigned, but it’s unlikely they’ll stay in San Diego.
As Bleacher Report notes, “San Diego didn’t have to trade Soto, but they did. Money is a commodity. For the Padres, it’s a liability. After the club took out a $50 million loan in September to meet its obligations, The Athletic’s Dennis Lynn said next year’s payroll could be slightly less than $200 million.”
Of course, Bleacher Report said the Dodgers could re-sign Snell and Hader, but “at this point, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to improve on this year’s disappointment.” The official opening two-game series of the 2024 season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego at Gocheok SkyDome in Seoul on March 20-21, 2024, may be the first chance to see the stark contrast between the two teams.