A couple of years ago, Sandy Alderson spoke at a function at Petco Park. It's not in the notes, but one of the things he talked about was the fact that Kevin Towers doesn't know how to stay within budget. Paraphrasing Sandy, it went something like, "We give Kevin a budget and he always comes back and asks for more money."
At the time, it left me with a good feeling towards Sandy, KT and Moores. It seemed like we had somebody who was fiscally responsible (Sandy), somebody fighting for the good of the product on the field (KT) and an owner who was willing to bend for the good of all (Moores). Now however, in the middle of cuts, I wonder if KT's tendency to spend beyond budget may be the big driver behind the severity of the paycuts.
Look at it this way. In a typical Petco Park year, Sandy gives KT a budget of $50 million for player payroll. Given the debt incurred from the new ballpark and the budget that Sandy has for the Padres as a whole, this is what Sandy feels is reasonable for the Padres to stay in the black. We can't consider Moores' other holdings, because Sandy's the CEO of the Padres and is being judged on how well he runs the Padres as a business. Over the course of a season, KT feels to be really competitive within the division he needs a little more than that and it typically comes out to $10 to $20 million more that he's been given to spend. Sandy goes to Moores. Moores OKs it.
Now, we're in the middle of a divorce and an obviously down economy. Moores cannot in good faith or even perhaps legally be writing the extra check to the Padres. Sandy and KT know this, but KT is still holding out hope that the Padres can be competitive. To stay in the black, Sandy feels that a $50 million payroll will still be OK. KT, as a good GM who wants to win and doesn't want to write off two years in a row as rebuilding, feels that he'll needs at least $10-$20 million over the course of the season to make moves in the event that an extra piece or two could get them to the playoffs. Therefore, he slashes as much as possible to get $10-$20 million below the $50 million that Sandy's given as a budget. He gets below the given budget to make sure his hands aren't tied during the season, knowing that Moores won't pay any extra in 2009.
Maybe the numbers are a little different, but it seems to make sense that part of the reason that the budget cuts appear so drastic is that they actually aren't. Maybe, juuuust maybe, the Padres are attempting to stay well under budget with a reasonably competitive team and keeping their cards close to the vest to surprise us in the middle of the season with a scrappy underdog team turned good.
At least that's what I'm hoping.