After exceeding the luxury tax limit in each of the last two seasons, the Padres aren’t slowing down their spending. Signing Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280MM deal was the splashiest move of a busy offseason, but San Diego also made significant investments to re-sign Nick Martinez and Robert Suarez, as well as bring in other new talents in Seth Lugo and Matt Carpenter. The Padres also checked in on any number of other players, including Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Christian Vazquez, Jose Abreu, Kodai Senga, Chris Bassitt, and Nathan Eovaldi.
The result is a projected $249.4MM payroll for 2023 is the highest in club history, as well as estimated tax number of roughly $266.6MM. However, according to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, “people familiar with the team’s thinking say the Padres are up against a self-prescribed spending limit.” This limit isn’t necessarily absolute, since as Lin notes, the internal spending limit is ultimately up to owner Peter Seidler, who might decide to again green-light a big expenditure if it means getting the Padres a step closer to a World Series title.
Still, it would seem like payroll space might be at something of a premium, given San Diego’s most recent moves. Adam Engel was signed to a one-year guaranteed deal, and while terms aren’t yet known, it’s safe to assume Engel isn’t getting more than the $2.3MM he was projected to earn in arbitration. Brent Honeywell was signed to a split contract, while Wilmer Font and Eric Hanhold were inked to minor league deals. Naturally, all teams (no matter the payroll) look for lower-cost depth as the offseason goes on, but the Padres still have some notable needs that would require a bigger fix.
President of baseball operations AJ Preller is no stranger to creative trades, so the Padres could look to address those needs while freeing up some salary at the same time. For instance, the Padres have at least some openness to moving infielder Ha-Seong Kim, who has a $7MM luxury tax number (based on average annual value) and who is owed $25MM over next two seasons. Trent Grisham has also been floated as a possible trade candidate, though Grisham is among the less-expensive members of San Diego’s roster. Dating back to last season, there has long been speculation that Blake Snell (owed $16MM in 2023) could be dealt, even if such a move wouldn’t help fix the depth issues in the Padres’ rotation.
Between trades and promotions, the Padres’ farm system has lost a lot of its depth; Baseball America rated the Padres only 23rd of 30 teams in its midseason organizational talent rankings. As such, this could complicate the concept of San Diego attaching a prospect or two to an undesirable contract in trade talks. For instance, Drew Pomeranz missed all of 2022 recovering from flexor tendon surgery, and the reliever is owed $10MM in 2023. A rebuilding team could be enticed to take Pomeranz’s deal off the Padres’ books if some minor league talent was added as a sweetener, except San Diego might not have the prospects to spare.