Many questions arose during the offseason. Some answered, others did not. One kept coming up over and over again: Where do the San Diego Padres get all this money?
The Padres are, by definition, a small-market club. The San Diego market ranks 22 out of 25 with Major League Baseball teams. They did not spend as one. The Padres committed $458 million in contracts during the offseason, surprising the industry with every expense. His projected payroll is nearly $237 million, behind only the New York Mets and New York Yankees, according to Spotrac.
That has led to another question: Is this strategy sustainable?
Owner Peter Seidler, the grandson of Walter O’Malley, thinks so. He made it rain for two reasons: to topple the Dodgers again and to win the city’s first championship in a major professional sport.
The Dodgers won 111 games last season. Even a 15-game drop this year could be enough to win the NL West for the 10th time in 11 years. But the parents are coming. San Diego won just 89 games last season, but beat the 101-win Mets and Dodgers in the playoffs. With their offseason, this should be a two-team marathon for the division title.
“They’re a great baseball club,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They have done a lot of good things. I think we’re going to have this conversation all year long.”
The Dodgers’ response to the Padres’ exorbitant offseason? A series of modest additions with some notable departures. Trea Turner, one of the most productive players in the majors last season, signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Justin Turner signed with the Boston Red Sox. Pitchers Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and Chris Martin went elsewhere. Cody Bellinger was effectively released in November.
Clayton Kershaw was rehired. JD Martinez was acquired to replace Justin Turner’s bat. Veterans Noah Syndergaard, David Peralta, Jason Heyward and Miguel Rojas were added to plug the holes.
Rojas was acquired to serve as a utility infielder. He is now the starting shortstop after Gavin Lux suffered a season-ending knee injury in spring training. The injury could expose the Dodgers’ lack of infield depth in the upper minors, but it won’t make or break their season. Exchanges can underpin that.
The team’s success will ultimately depend on its core position players (Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Max Muncy) and starting rotation.
Julio Urías has been one of the best pitchers in the majors over the past three seasons. He has been consistent and durable. The rest of the rotation is a question.
Walker Buehler is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season after Tommy John surgery in August. Kershaw, 35, is still elite when he’s healthy, but he hasn’t made more than 22 starts in the past two seasons. Dustin May made just six starts last season after returning from Tommy John surgery. Tony Gonsolin dealt with a forearm strain last season and will miss the start of this season with a sprained ankle. Syndergaard has yet to regain the speed that previously made him one of the best pitchers in the majors.
Injuries will happen. The Dodgers are relying on a group of youngsters to fuel the rotation when they do. Gavin Stone, Bobby Miller and Ryan Pepiot are expected to contribute this year. Stone landed on the big league radar last season. Miller is a first-round pick with a high ceiling. Neither has made their major league debut. Pepiot debuted last year, posting a 3.47 earned run average in 36⅓ innings.
Therein lies the difference between the Dodgers and the Padres: The Dodgers should once again have the depth advantage. The Padres, however, have better top-tier talent, especially on offense. The depth wins regular season games. But stars have propelled clubs to the World Series, and the Padres have gone after star power.
They became the first franchise to pay two players more than $340 million after giving third baseman Manny Machado an 11-year, $350 million contract extension last month; Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a 14-year, $340 million contract last year. They signed Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million deal in December.
They traded for outfielder Juan Soto, who could get an even bigger contract after he turned down a $440 million offer from Washington, and reliever Josh Hader last season. Tatis is eligible to return from suspension at the end of April. The roster has produced so much buzz that the Padres have had to suspend season ticket sales. They are now revenue sharers, not recipients, in Major League Baseball’s wealth redistribution system.
“Last year, we continued to fight together,” Machado said. “We had some adversity that we had to deal with. And we just got over all of that. That was fun to watch and then finally, I think the biggest one was getting over the Dodgers hump. They’ve been beating our butts for a long time.”
The script hasn’t changed yet, but the Padres pushed their way into legitimate World Series contention, setting the stage for a potential wire-to-wire divisional race.
NL West expected finish order:
1 | los angeles dodgers
2022 | 111-51, first in the west
Last year in the playoffs | 2022
This list isn’t as good as the one that won 111 games last season, but it doesn’t have to be to win a World Series. The lineup took a hit with the loss of Trea Turner, but Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman should fuel a top-tier offense. Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw headline a starting rotation that welcomes Dustin May again and could benefit from other reinforcements.
2 | San Diego Padres
2022 | 89-73, 2nd in West
Last year in the playoffs | 2022
The Padres won the offseason. But will they win the season? They signed Xander Bogaerts and Nelson Cruz. They extended Manny Machado and Yu Darvish. Juan Soto and Josh Hader will have their first full seasons with the club. Fernando Tatis Jr. is eligible to return from suspension at the end of April. Expectations have never been higher.
3 | arizona diamondbacks
2022 | 74-88, 4th in West
Last year in the playoffs | 2017
The future looks bright in Arizona. So brilliant that the club opted to give Corbin Carroll, the game’s top prospect, the richest contract extension in franchise history despite the fact that he’s only spent 38 days in the majors. The present is not bad either. The Diamondbacks could find themselves in contention for a wild-card spot behind right-handers Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.
4 | San Francisco Giants
2022 | 81-81, 3rd in West
Last year in the playoffs | 2021
The Giants’ .500 record last season was a huge disappointment after their 107-win campaign in 2021. This team seems destined for another .500 finish. The rotation is strong with Logan Webb a legitimate ace, but the lineup is shaky. Michael Conforto, one of the best hitters in the majors just three years ago, was signed on a flyer.
5 | colorado rocky mountains
2022 | 68-94, 5th in West
Last year in the playoffs | 2018
The problem isn’t that the Rockies are expected to finish last in the division for the second straight season. The problem is that they are far behind the others. Kris Bryant, his big signing last offseason, was one of baseball’s biggest disappointments in 2022, hitting five home runs in just 42 games. He somehow he didn’t hit one at Coors Field.