The Padres May Never Compete With the Dodgers Financially, But They Are Making Strides

Tuesday November 27th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto (Baseball Writer):

The Padres seem poised to eventually become mild-spenders. For an organization that’s highest payroll since 2002 has been roughly $73 million (in 2008), moving up in the spending chain would certainly be good for a change. This transformation could come as soon as 2013 or maybe a few years down the road.

But let’s be sure of something—the Padres have a steep hill to climb before they can compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers in terms of financial freedom. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be able to compete with the newly labeled ‘Yankees’ of the West coast, but it surely prevents them from signing talented free agents. The A’s and Orioles are a pair of most recent teams to win on a cheaper payroll, while the Rays have been the very definition of that over the past few years.

Padres’ new ownership group that features the O’Malley’s family and Phil Mickelson, displayed a glimpse of this newly found money when they extended Carlos Quentin and Huston Street to long-term deals. At that point in time, the baseball world was curious why the Padres were actually spending money. It was close to a shock.

Anyway, Quentin’s deal spans three years on $27 million, and he will become the Padres’ highest paid player. So, nine million per year for a player who would’ve been highly coveted on this year’s free agent market. I’d say that’s a wise move. Of course the fact that Quentin wanted to stay in San Diego and his injury issues both played a role in the bargain price. As for Street, the Padres extended him for two more years with an annual salary of $7 million.

Quentin and Street’s respective deals are two perfect examples of what the Padres should strive for—smart signings, but avoiding the “cheap” reputation which has hovered over them for the good part of the past decade. Part of these unwise signings that have ravaged their payroll, include Orlando Hudson’s two-year, $11.5 million deal that San Diego dished out to him in the winter of 2010. Hudson, who was released in late May, triple slashed for a mere .238/.313/.344 in his two-year stint with the Padres.

Another example of an unwise spending is Jason Bartlett. The Padres signed him to a two-year, $11 million contract in December of 2010. And at that point in time, all signs pointed towards a great acquisition when San Diego acquired him from the Rays, where he hit close to .300 in three years. But he limboed under expectations with the Padres, triple-slashing for .231/.299/.292 with an OPS south of .600. The final touch was the hook, as they released him in late August.

Simply put, those two deals alone set the Padres back significantly. Luckily for them, they weren’t too extensive in terms of the amount of years. The difference with the Dodgers in this regard, though, is the fact that they can make these types of mistakes and get away with them because they have breathing room financially. That’s one of the benefits of having a $220-plus million payroll that may even reach 250 Million.

And the Padres will soon face more of these payroll changing decisions with Chase Headley, who is coming off of a breakout season.

With Headley, there is a little less of a risk to go long-term. He just presumably entered the prime of his career, and still has plenty of gas left in the tank. However, his National League leading 115 RBIs and 31 home runs in 2012 can attest to what the Padres will owe him this offseason, as he’s arbitration eligible for the second time in his career. For reference, last year he made nearly $3.5 million. Next year he should make about eight million. If he repeats his 2012 campaign in 2013, then he should be in line for a massive payday down the road, which might see the Padres formerly trading him if his demands prove to be too steep.  With the new owners, they must be willing to keep the best players on the franchise if they wish to compete with the Dodgers and the Pitching heavy Giants.

The Padres still reportedly have some money to spend this offseason, however. Specifically, $20 to $30 million to boot. According to Cot’s Contract, their projected 2013 payroll is roughly $93 million. Yes, you read that right—$93 million for the once cheap Padres. Don’t expect ownership to pocket that money either.

Dan Haren, Shaun Marcum, and potentially Kelly Johnson all seem like possibilities to land in San Diego this offseason. Out of that trio, though, Haren seems most likely to be wearing a Padres’ uniform next season, as both sides seem to be progressing toward a contract. Sure, these three aren’t the biggest names in free agency, but it’s a step in the right direction.

It could be years before the Padres catch up to the realm of the Dodgers financially. In fact, it may never happen. However, San Diego can’t be the cheap Padres anymore in a competitive division. They don’t have to be the biggest spenders, but the days of relying on inexperienced players seem and should be over.

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

Jake Dal Porto is a Baseball Writer with MLB reports and a student from the Bay Area. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter: 

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About Jake Dal Porto

Jake Dal Porto is a student from the Bay Area. He has followed Bay Area sports for years, and enjoys writing about the various Bay Area teams. He is an assistant editor at Golden Gate Sports, and the editor of Blue Man Hoop. If you need to contact Jake, email him: jakedalporto@gmail.com

Posted on November 27, 2012, in MLB Payroll and Contracts, MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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