The Padres and right-hander Joe Musgrove have intermittently engaged in contract talks during the season, both back in April (when San Diego reportedly floated an eight-year deal worth roughly $88MM), and in recent weeks. It was just back on July 2 that The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote that negotiations had seemingly “fizzled,” thus making it seem like Musgrove would test the free agent market this winter.
However, the two sides have restarted negotiations, according to Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune. More promisingly, “there is optimism the deal could be completed this week.” Whether the All-Star break represents any sort of deadline is unknown, though Musgrove has already stated that he doesn’t want talks to linger into the season’s final two months.
This much in-season negotiating is already fairly unusual, considering most players generally set Opening Day as the unofficial deadline for the end of extension talks, in order to avoid any distractions once play begins. It is also pretty unusual to see a player primed for a big free agent payday instead sign an extension with his current team this close his trip to the open market, but Musgrove stated in April that he was open to negotiating during the year. Also, considering how the lockout wiped out three months of offseason business, it could be that Musgrove was a little more flexible in continuing contract talks that likely would’ve taken place long ago in a more normal winter.
If it wasn’t for the lockout, it seems possible that the Padres might have locked up Musgrove months ago, yet he has only enhanced his value with an excellent start to the 2022 season. Named to his first All-Star team, Musgrove has a 2.42 ERA, above-average strikeout (24.8%) and walk (5.6%) rates, strong hard-contact numbers and some of the best fastball spin rates of any pitcher in the sport. These numbers have put Musgrove in the NL Cy Young Award discussion, and made him the ace of an overall solid San Diego rotation.
Acquired from the Pirates as part of a three-team trade in January 2021, Musgrove has taken his performance to a new level as a Padre, also delivering a great 2021 season that included the first no-hitter in Padres franchise history. It has made for quite the homecoming for the SoCal native, and both Musgrove and the Padres have naturally had mutual interest in keeping the relationship going for years to come.
It now seems certain that Musgrove will score a nine-figure contract if he reaches the open market, so San Diego will certainly have to significantly bump its offer up from the $88MM range (and the $11MM average annual value range). Locking up Musgrove to a major extension would add another long-term commitment to the Padres’ books, though the organization has shown a willingness to spend at the luxury tax level, paying the tax in 2021 and currently sitting just under the $230MM threshold.
Extending Musgrove would allow the Padres to cement him as the second cornerstone of its future rotation, alongside MacKenzie Gore. Sean Manaea and Mike Clevinger are also both scheduled to hit free agency after the season, and Nick Martinez could also be a free agent if he exercises the first of three player options in his contract. Yu Darvish and Blake Snell are under contract only through the 2023 season, and there has even been some speculation that the Padres could look to trade Snell to create a bit more flexibility under the tax line and thus avoid a second straight year of overage.