The Padres were relatively quiet during the pre-lockout portion of the offseason, at least by A.J. Preller’s usual aggressive standards. The club’s trade of Adam Frazier to the Mariners stands as San Diego’s biggest move of the winter, and that deal was surely motivated at least in part by the $7.2MM Frazier is projected to earn in salary arbitration.
Though the next collective bargaining agreement could change the luxury tax rules, for now the Padres’ hefty salary commitments (roughly $214.7MM for 2022, as per Roster Resource) continues to influence the front office’s activities. The Padres already exceeded the $210MM luxury tax threshold in 2021, and would face a repeater penalty of a 30% surcharge on the overage if they surpassed whatever the threshold is in 2022. It isn’t clear what San Diego’s salary ceiling might actually be, though The Athletic’s Dennis Lin (multiple links) notes that another “major hike” would require owner Peter Seidler to get a green light from the franchise’s minority owners.
As such, the Padres’ spending will probably be limited to some extent, as Lin has “a hard time seeing the Padres taking on another contract approaching nine figures” while the contracts of Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers are still on San Diego’s payroll. Both Hosmer and Myers have been mentioned in trade rumors for well over a year, as the Friars have looked for creative ways of unloading either player’s hefty salary. Hosmer is the more expensive of the duo, owed $59MM through the 2025 season while Myers is owed $21MM in 2022 ($20MM in salary and a $1MM buyout of a $20MM club option for 2023).
As Lin simply puts it, “there are a lot of moving parts to this offseason.” Getting at least one of Hosmer or Myers off the books could unlock a lot of possibilities for the Padres, who have already been linked to such notable free agents as Nick Castellanos and Kris Bryant. While this interest could have just been due diligence, it does indicate that San Diego is at least checking in to see what it would to add another pricey, top-tier name to the roster.
There has been much speculation that the Padres could try to trade Hosmer or Myers by including a top prospect in the deal, as a rebuilding team with payroll space might be willing to eat some salary in order to essentially buy a blue chip minor leaguer. The Padres discussed Hosmer with the Rangers and Cubs at the trade deadline, with Robert Hassell III reportedly part of the negotiations with Texas, and Lin writes that catching prospect Luis Campusano was part of the Hosmer talks with Chicago.
The catch of such a trade, however, is that while the Padres would be lightening their salary load, they would also be losing a controllable young player that is all the more valuable to a team with such a luxury tax burden. The club has already dipped into its prospect depth for other trades, to the point that Lin reports that rival teams now focus their asks only on San Diego’s top minor leaguers, with Hassell and CJ Abrams receiving most of the attention. With this in mind, Lin is doubtful if the Padres would deal any of their best prospects, or the likes of Trent Grisham or Jake Cronenworth on the MLB roster.