With nine wins in their last 10 games, the San Diego Padres are making a spirited late-season run at a wild-card spot. They will almost certainly fall short — the Padres enter Monday five games back with six games to play — but at least they’re making things interesting. That’s really all you could ask for when you’re as far back as the Padres were a few weeks ago.
This offseason also promises to be interesting in San Diego. GM A.J. Preller’s seat figures to be at least a little warm with the team likely to miss the postseason, and changes to the roster are coming. So too, apparently, it a payroll reduction. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Padres are expected to reduce player payroll by about 20%, to around $200 million in 2024.
How much the team is bringing in is not a known number, though one highly placed source says the team has doubled revenue since 2018 and others around baseball marvel at the impressive gains. However, the size of the payroll is known, and it has jumped from $104 million in 2018 to the season-ending figure of around $253 million in ’23.
In part because they are out of compliance with MLB regulations regarding their debt service ratio, according to multiple sources, the plan is to go into 2024 with player commitments of around $200 million.
The Padres entered this season with a franchise record $248.9 million payroll. Trimming nearly $50 million off payroll in an offseason is extreme, though pricey veterans Josh Hader and Blake Snell will come off the books, as will Drew Pomeranz’s dead money. That said, the Padres will have to replace Hader and Snell this winter. That won’t be easy (or cheap).
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, San Diego has $155.3 million on the books for next season. That covers 12 players and does not include arbitration raises. Juan Soto is making $23 million this year and his salary could push $30 million through arbitration next year. Trading Soto to unload money and add youth could be in the cards.
The case can be made San Diego should just run it back next season. They are 7-22 in one-run games and 0-12 in extra-inning games. 0-12! Had San Diego gone, say, 5-7 in those extra-inning games rather than 0-12, they’re in a wild-card spot. Same with the one-run games. Turn a few losses in very close games into wins, and their season looks much different.
San Diego will still build around Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado Jr., and Fernando Tatis next season even if they do manage to get payroll down into the $200 million range. That’s a very strong core even though it hasn’t always been evident in 2023.