Remember two years ago when the San Diego Padres were the most aggressive team in baseball under new general manager A.J. Preller? That might as well be two decades ago, because the Padres current philosophy, payroll and roster structure resemble that in no shape or form.
In fact, over the past 18 months, the Padres have gone aggressive in the other direction, having unloaded every large contract that existed before and after Preller’s arrival. Granted, they haven’t completely eliminated all of the money that’s owed to these players, but they entered stunning territory this weekend after trading Derek Norris to Washington and then non-tendering former ace Tyson Ross and veteran infielder Alexi Amarista.
Those three players represented the last on San Diego’s roster to earn over $1M in 2016, and it leaves them with no million-dollar players on the roster headed into this week’s Winter Meetings.
Keen observers will note that Wil Myers is arbitration-eligible this winter and will no doubt command a salary well over $1M. That’s true, but he doesn’t have that money yet, and there’s still no guarantee the Padres will hold on to him either. For now, reliever Carter Capps is their highest paid player remaining after earning $987,500 last season. Capps missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Padres are clearly in the midst of a complete rebuild, which became necessary when Preller’s aggressive plan backfired. Over the past two seasons the Padres have remained in the bottom portion of the NL West, and they’ve watched the distance between them and both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants grow. Heck, even the Rockies put distance between them as Colorado is seemingly poised to contend for a playoff spot next season.
Meanwhile, Preller and company are back at square one after learning the hard way that you can’t become a contender overnight. In attempting to do so, they locked themselves into several bad contracts, while emptying a decent farm system.
Focusing on those contracts, it’s fascinating to note that San Diego could end up paying more to players on other teams than their own. They owe a shade under $33M this season to five players suiting up elsewhere. Those players include Melvin Upton Jr. ($11.4M owed), James Shields ($11M), Hector Olivera ($6M), Matt Kemp ($2.5M) and Jedd Gyorko ($2M).
These are pretty close to nightmare numbers for a baseball executive. Especially for a team that doesn’t traditionally spend a lot of money. But it’s the reality of where the Padres are now, and it might represent the distance they must travel to become relevant again.
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