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Padres Aim to Realize Late Owner Seidler’s World Series Dream

The San Diego Padres are heading into the 2024 season without the guidance of beloved owner Peter Seidler, who passed away at 63 this past November after bouts with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Seidler’s brother, Tom, told Sportico recently the family has pledged to follow through on Seidler’s dream of trying to win the World Series.

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Last season, Seidler built the largest payroll in team history of $256 million. And even with mandated cutbacks this season corresponding to the loss of about $60 million in annual regional television revenue, the Padres will still have a star-studded lineup costing $145 million, 13th in MLB rather than third.

“Peter led in a lot of different ways,” Padres long-time general manager A.J. Preller said as spring training opened. “But in terms of messaging, it’s all about winning championships. It’s all about getting to the postseason and putting an exciting product on the field. That hasn’t changed whatsoever.”

The death of Seidler, who bought the team in 2012 from John Moores, had a domino effect on the organization.

He has been replaced as chairman of the board by Eric Kutsenda, a co-founder of Seidler Equity Partners but not a family member; Kutsenda is also serving as interim control person on all MLB business.

The Padres, one of the most underachieving teams in MLB last season, finished 82-80 and missed the playoffs by two games. Former Padres manager Bob Melvin, who left for the San Francisco Giants in the offseason, was replaced from within the organization by Mike Shildt.

“You learn from experiences, but we also move forward and grow from them,” said Shildt, the former St. Louis Cardinals manager and a senior advisor for the Padres last season. “We’re going deep to make sure we have clarity about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

The Padres traded Juan Soto to the New York Yankees and let NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and closer Josh Hader walk to free agency. Hader signed with the Houston Astros for five years, $95 million, and at this writing, Snell, a Scott Boras client, is still unsigned, with spring training games starting this week.

The Padres will open their Cactus League schedule Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Ariz., and the two teams begin the regular season on March 20-21 in Seoul. Both teams reported early because of the two-game series in Korea.

Preller said the Padres are still eyeing the market both for trades and free agent signings, and though a reengagement with Snell is improbable at this point, it’s not impossible.

They added Jurickson Profar on a one-year, $1 million deal to fill the outfield gap left when Soto and Trent Grisham were traded to the Yankees, and the team still has some money to spend.

“Every year from a budget standpoint we have some flexibility,” Preller said. “We’re open. We do have the ability to add if we’d like to.”

To be sure, the Padres are still spending money this season. Salaries of Xander Bogaerts, Joe Musgrove, Manny Machado, Yu Darvish and Fernando Tatis Jr. make up the bulk of their luxury tax payroll—$119.8 million.

Bogaerts has already been told he’ll move from shortstop to second base, with Ha-seong Kim stepping in at short. Musgrove missed the first month of last season with a toe injury and the last six weeks with right shoulder soreness—lost time that possibly cost the Padres a chance to make the playoffs.

Machado said he’s recovering steadily from offseason right elbow surgery but wouldn’t predict whether he’d be ready for the start of the season.

“As of now I’m feeling good,” he said. “I have no issues with hitting and throwing. I’m just building up my arm [strength] to be able to tolerate every day.”

Darvish was also shut down last September because of a bone spur in his right elbow. He’s ready to go, Shildt said.

“They’re recovering well, so they’re ready, healthy,” he said about Darvish and Musgrove.

Tatis, the reigning NL Gold Glove winner, comes into this season free of problems. Last year, he missed the first 20 games serving out an 80-game drug suspension and recovering from right shoulder and left wrist surgeries. He moved from shortstop to right field for the first time in 2023.

“He started to become who is, which is a joyful artist on the baseball field,” Shildt said about Tatis, who was out of action for 564 days before finally returning. “But mostly, he owned what he did.”

Kutsenda recently spoke publicly for the first time about replacing Seidler, who not only took the team to another level on the field by investing in players, but was a fixture in the San Diego community, working to better the lives for people without homes in downtown San Diego.

The Padres have scheduled a day of memorial for Seidler on March 22 at Petco Park.

The Padres have made the World Series twice—in 1984 and 1998—when they lost to the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, respectively. They’ve made the playoffs once in a non-COVID season since 2006—in 2022 when the Padres lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in a five-game NL Championship Series. That was the closest the Seidler-led Padres came to winning it all.

Seidler came from baseball royalty. He was the grandson of late Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley and the nephew of his heir, Peter O’Malley.

Right now, they’re honoring Seidler’s legacy.

“In terms of ownership, there’s no expectation of a change,” Kutsenda said. “We stated that early on. Peter described a long time ago that he expected the team to be in the Seidler family for generations. That is certainly our expectation.”

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